Flow Theory - The Secret to True Workplace Happiness - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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Flow Theory – The Secret to True Workplace Happiness

It’s 1:00pm, you’re with your work colleague and they’re trying to converse with you, waiting for your response. The words are gradually going through your head, in one ear, floating in your brain for a bit, and out the other – “What’s for lunch today?”, “Pasta again?”. As much as you want to answer, need to answer and know how well you know the answer, you don’t, because you’re too focused on wanting to perfect that EVP (Employee Value Proposition) you started working on earlier that morning. That focus to perfect the EVP right there is you in the zone. We call this state of feeling ‘in the zone’, Flow – but theoretically speaking, it’s “Flow Theory”.

Let’s take the EVP example and look at it a bit further. Your ex-associate’s left devastating departing words. You want to try to make sure no one else remaining feels what Jeff felt. You don’t want his old desk open for refilling anymore. It’s a case study problem that has gotten you immersed into creating the ideal EVP to recover those issues. As you are experiencing this ‘in the zone’ state – aka. Flow – it further acts as subconscious help to solve your case study. In other words, it’s a forensic scientist itself.

We as individuals have experienced this ‘in the zone’ state more often than we think. We become so immersed into whatever activity it is that we’re doing, we sometimes don’t realise ourselves that it is the case. That is, until we look at the clock and think “…where has the time gone?!”. Exploring the who, what, when, where, why and how’s of the Flow Theory as identified by happiness and creativity expert, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, we can create an acute awareness of it to push it forward towards our conscious mind. Once, we’ve become conscious of it, we can better manage the pace and be receptive to the enjoyment of being focused to achieve your initial wants.

Who can experience Flow?

Anyone can experience Flow. It could be anyone who you know is in their own element doing whatever it is that they’re doing. A couple to mention could be your friend, your neighbour or your work colleague or more importantly – you.

What is it that we’re experiencing?

What it is that you’re experiencing is a range of feelings thought through. While some of them don’t all happen, some can include:

  • Feeling that you have personal control over the situation
  • A feeling of strong concentration and focused attention
  • Knowing that the task is a good challenge, however doable with the skills you have
  • Lack of awareness of time and self-consciousness
  • Knowing you will be rewarded with the task you’re involved with

Some of these thoughts can happen unknowingly to us, while some are felt initially as a mean to prompt us to engage in the activity. Nevertheless of which happens for you, either experience felt is understood as requisites to achieving Flow. 

When, Where & How Does Flow Happen?

Similarly to every individual being different from one another, Flow can happen differently for each and every person, depending on what they’re engaged in at the time. It could be anything you’re currently involved with – soccer for sports, painting for arts, shopping for your mum’s birthday gift or even writing a blog post for work… The main point is your mind is set on a particular train of focus for these involvements – scoring a goal, using the right brush strokes, finding that designer handbag mum’s had her eye on or getting the thumbs up from your boss for a (this) killer piece.

Why it happens is because the activity has a goal clearly defined enough for you to understand what is to be achieved. It acts as a stimulant to induce you into the reward it reaps. You overcome any obstacle using your skills to respond in a required way – these obstacles can present itself in ways such that we explored earlier with your work colleague trying to converse with you.

Why should we Flow?

There are many reasons and benefits to engage with Flow. Sometimes, you won’t even realise you already are without even having to organise that you should. A pivotal aspect Flow brings out is performance it creates for individuals who immerses themselves into the activity of their choice. Of course, better performance at work will translate into benefits for an organisation. This domino effect will see goals and objectives being met effectively, seeing favours fly in each and every direction.

Other advantages that Flow insinuates is the desire to obtain new skills in order to seek new challenges and be incentivised by the rewards it offers. This here is in line for personal development and achievement. This capacity to achieve is nothing more than to let you feel accomplished, worthy and more importantly, happy.

Happiness as the overall goal is one thing but we needn’t forget our initials thoughts for putting us in the situation to be focused on a particular task. Whilst this can happen unknowingly, placing us ‘in the zone’, we can now decide whether to action it as a sequential step.

As examined, we now understand crucial aspects of Flow. Because of that, you being fixated on that EVP earlier that has now been completed (partially thanks to being ‘in the zone’) and implemented has motivated everybody in your department with perk assurance. You’ve also filled Jeff’s old desk with someone who’s happy to work with you and you’re basking in the joy of your objectives being met. This case study problem with Jeff has just been solved by being ‘in the zone’ – also known as Flow aka. a forensic scientist.