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What triggers the state of flow among your employees?

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced us to the concept of flow, a state where your mind and body are in complete harmony with the task at hand. It’s when you’re so engrossed and emotionally connected to your work that everything else fades away. You’re in your element, perfectly balanced between challenge and skill, without a hint of boredom or overwhelming stress. Distractions don’t stand a chance. You’re “in the zone,” where fatigue seems a foreign concept, and your tasks unfold with surprising ease. Time becomes irrelevant, slipping by unnoticed.

“Flow” isn’t just some abstract idea; it’s grounded in tangible impacts on our daily lives and work. Consider this: the average UK employee squanders 760 hours each year on distractions or activities unrelated to work. In a recent study by the American Psychological Association, 77% of workers reported experiencing anxiety in their workplace. And the cost? American businesses are bleeding over $650 billion annually due to distracted employees not fully concentrating on their tasks. The pursuit of flow, then, becomes not just a personal quest for productivity but a critical economic imperative.

But, the good news is that 75% of employees acknowledge a boost in productivity after receiving training on managing distractions.

Training your employees, leadership included, to achieve a state of flow at work can yield similar, if not superior, outcomes. This approach not only enhances focus but also elevates overall workplace efficiency.

    How to foster a state of flow in your workplace 

    Tackling this issue demands a comprehensive strategy. To effectively address a problem, acknowledging its magnitude is the first step. Are your employees struggling with maintaining focus? Is constant stress a hurdle in their day-to-day? Are they falling short of realising their full potential? Does the inability of your employees to concentrate on their tasks negatively impact your organisation’s objectives?

    Distraction is just the tip of the iceberg. A staggering 60% of individuals feel emotionally disconnected at work, with 19% describing their state as miserable. In the US, half of the workforce experiences stress on a daily basis, 22% feel sadness, and 18% harbour feelings of anger.

    Fostering an environment that enables employees to achieve a state of flow is crucial. Although tackling these issues might not instantly trigger flow, they lay the foundational groundwork necessary for its realisation.

    If your team members are grappling with anger, dissatisfaction, or stress, uncovering the root causes is imperative. Could the source be the work environment, personal issues, or a disconnect between an individual’s skills and how they’re being utilised? Maybe there’s a sense of resentment brewing because their efforts go unrecognised or unrewarded. Or, could it be that the physical workspace itself is less than ideal?

    Addressing these concerns on a case-by-case basis is essential. Once these underlying issues are resolved, you can then set the stage for cultivating a state of flow within your workplace, paving the way for enhanced productivity and overall job satisfaction.

    Flow state at work

    As a business coach, one of my goals is to help teams to create a state of flow within their businesses. But, achieving a state of flow is possible across all disciplines. In fact, the expression “being in the zone” is often used in sports and performing arts.

    You can be in a flow state when you study, when you sing, when you play the violin, when you race or when you meditate.

    Again, since my focus is achieving flow state in your workplace, let’s explore some ways you can achieve this state.

    Arrive at a consensus

    Securing buy-in is crucial. Achieving a state of flow isn’t something that can be mandated or inscribed into company policy. It’s about fostering a culture where this state is naturally encouraged and embraced as a collective endeavour. The more willingly your team members engage with the concept, the more fruitful the outcomes.

    Understandably, not every employee will be immediately receptive to this idea, and that’s perfectly okay. Start with those who are open to and enthusiastic about the concept of flow. Over time, this mindset will likely spread and take root across your team, enhancing the overall work environment and productivity.

    Flow state is an outcome of multiple factors

    Achieving a state of flow isn’t the ultimate goal but a harmonious state your employees can attain after addressing various barriers that hinder their peak performance.

    Creating this optimal state requires significant adjustments to the work environment. Recognise that fostering a flow state is a journey that demands time, dedication, and potentially deep-seated changes. It’s a process of continuous improvement and adaptation.

    Set clear goals and match talent with responsibilities

    A primary obstacle preventing your employees from achieving a flow state is a misalignment between their talents and the tasks at hand. Ensuring that the challenges they face are well-suited to their skill sets is crucial. Clearly communicate the objectives and the specific skills needed to meet these goals. Establish a timeline and clarify accountability.

    Moreover, integrating reflection time is essential. Encourage your team to regularly assess their progress, identifying strengths and areas for improvement. Advise them to monitor the duration of their flow states. This introspection and tracking can significantly enhance their ability to enter and maintain flow, optimising productivity and job satisfaction.

    Reduce distractions

    When you’re in a flow state, your brain naturally tunes out distractions, but some can be overwhelming and difficult to ignore. Consider taking the following steps:

    • Reduce the number of meetings.
    • Encourage your employees to delegate tasks that don’t fall within the ambit of their core competencies.
    • Turn off notifications on phones and laptops.
    • Assign a specific person for taking non-essential phone calls.
    • Communicate clearly to eliminate ambiguity and misinterpretation.
    • Discourage multitasking.

    Schedule flow states

    productivity in business

    Expecting employees to sustain a flow state throughout their office hours isn’t just unrealistic; it’s unnecessary. Even brief periods of flow, ranging from a couple of hours to as little as 30 minutes at the start of the day, can significantly boost productivity and morale. Starting small is perfectly fine.

    Consider setting aside a specific time block in your groups calendars. Encourage individuals to earmark a personal time slot in their schedules. Ensure this time is visible to all relevant parties to ensure the individual or team is left undisturbed during these critical moments of deep work—unless the building is on fire. This structured approach helps create a conducive environment for achieving and benefiting from the flow state.

    Devise a ritual

    Adopting a ritual acts as a mental primer, signalling your brain that it’s time to transition into a flow state. This process is akin to setting the stage for your mind to shift gears into deep focus and creativity.

    Integrating this ritual into your routine might take some practice. However, these actions will naturally cue your brain to enter its optimal flow state over time. Whether it’s brewing a favourite cup of coffee, listening to a particular song, or engaging in a meditation and mindfulness routine, these personalised rituals can significantly enhance the flow experience.

    Consider establishing a collective ritual for your team or empowering them to identify and embrace their individual rituals. This flexibility allows everyone to find the method that best suits their needs and preferences, fostering a more productive and harmonious work environment.

    Don’t ignore the health of your team

    Maintaining good health is crucial for achieving a flow state. Physical discomfort or health-related stress can significantly hinder an individual’s ability to concentrate and immerse themselves in work. While fostering a culture of health and wellness is a long-term investment, starting with small, actionable steps can make a big difference.

    Motivate your employees to adopt healthier eating habits. If possible, allocate time for physical activity, whether that’s in an office gym or arrangements with a local fitness centre. Compile and share healthy practices that employees can easily integrate into daily routines. Assist them in setting realistic health goals. These initiatives contribute to their overall well-being and enhance their capacity to enter and maintain a flow state, ultimately boosting productivity and job satisfaction.


    The flow state can significantly elevate your organisation’s productivity by optimising performance and enhancing the overall well-being of both your employees and team leaders. It fosters an environment conducive to learning and increases job satisfaction, ensuring you achieve the outcomes for which you hired your team.

    By nurturing a flow state within your workplace, you cultivate a happy and vibrant work environment. This benefits your immediate output and contributes to a positive organisational culture that thrives on engagement and fulfilment.

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    Written by business growth coach Dominic Monkhouse. Find out more about his work here. Read his new book, ‘Mind Your F**king Business’ here.

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