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How To Help Employees Achieve Flow State

Tim Driscoll

September 26, 2019

Whether you’re a leader, a contributor, a musician, a student, or an athlete, we can all relate to being “in the zone” at different points in our lives. When we are there, we are so “dialed in” — our concentration, energy, and joy are near their peak. We are feeling and performing at our best, and what we are accomplishing feels effortless. 

This state of being is referred to as “flow state” and it can be defined as the state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in their work, undisturbed by the outside. Those who achieve flow state feel focused, energized, actively involved, and fulfilled by the process. It means being completely absorbed in what one is doing and results in high performance and production. And, according to research done by Harvard professor Teresa Amabile, people who have experienced this state of mind report higher levels of productivity, creativity, and happiness for up to three days after experiencing flow state!

Knowing how much better we feel when we are in this state, and if, in fact, it does lead to additional subsequent days of increased performance each time we reach the flow state, how can we help ourselves and others reach this state more often?

Here are a few ways to help facilitate flow, and how you can provide these opportunities from a workplace perspective:

Do you know how you can help your employees get in the zone? @InspireSoftware does and here’s how they say to do it: Tweet This!

1. Focus on One Task at a Time

You can’t get into the zone when you’re juggling multiple things at a time, bouncing from one train of thought to the next. Flow requires a single-minded effort, so by giving your employees the time to perform task-based work that can be organized and prioritized with enough time to be completed one at a time, they have a much easier time staying focused and on track. Managers that provide proper timelines and allocate workloads their employees can reasonably manage will better enable flow state.

2. The Goldilocks Rule: Not too Difficult, Not too Easy

You should challenge your employees, but not to the point where they struggle to complete the work. Understand your employees' skill sets and competencies, and challenge them to improve upon them. Assigning them work below their skill level will lead to boredom, but pushing them too far too quickly can be frustrating and create obstacles for completion. Talk to your people and find that middle ground where they’re being challenged just enough to be engaged and interested, but not so much that they get discouraged.

3. Work Flexibility

Not everyone is at their most productive self at the same time. Some people are at their sharpest early in the morning, others in the afternoon, and some don’t really kick into high gear until evening. Provide your employees the opportunity to work at the times that are best for their productivity to help give them the extra motivation they need to get into their groove. Biological prime time is the hours in which you feel most energized. Help your employees discover when their best time occurs, and — when possible — they can organize their workload around the time of day they’ll be at their most productive.

Did you know that employees who achieve #FlowState and get in the zone experience this state of mind for up to three days? @InspireSoftware shows you how you can help facilitate flow in the workplace:Tweet This!

4. Set Clear, Defined Goals

What is this employee working towards? It’s easier to be productive when you know what needs to be accomplished and why. Vague or open-ended tasks feel like less of a priority because the employee doesn’t know how, when, or why their work might be used — this is when procrastination can set in. With a clear goal in mind, your employees will be able to maintain concentration in order to achieve what they’ve set out to accomplish.

5. Clear Away Distractions

Try not to schedule meetings, ask for progress updates, or micromanage while you know your employees are in their biological prime time. Provide them with the space they need in order to get into their flow state, and don’t interrupt them while they’re there. If they need to leave the office to crank out their work, provide them the flexibility to do their best work in an environment that is most conducive for getting focused, minimizes distractions, and allows them to stay focused.

6. Encourage Them to Enjoy the Process

Remember to enjoy the ride. When employees' skills are aligned with their work, they are more likely to excel. The outcome is important, but so is the journey along the way. Show appreciation for the progress being made and empower employees to stretch themselves — to feel they have control over the situation — and the outcome will result in a better and repeatable journey. Are they a problem-solver? Remind them that it’s a creative challenge for which they can find a solution. Are they analytical? Show them how they can break the task down into its individual parts to better understand how to complete it. When you can appreciate the journey, it’s easier to get absorbed in what you’re doing and enter your flow state.

Imagine your employees finding two or more days of flow each week and the positive residual that could have on your organization. Finding and engaging their psychological motivation is a key part of achieving flow state. We’d love to tell you more about how Inspire can help you motivate and foster your work environment so that you’re creating an engaged, productive workplace in a constant state of flow.