Most people would balk at the idea that happiness @ work is possible.
When people think of their job, words like stressed out, busy, tiring, and unappreciated are more likely to pop into their minds. And out their mouths.
In Singapore, as with many places worldwide, working hours start early and end late. Everything needs to be turned around and completed NOW.
Interconnectedness means all of a sudden we are (or expected to be) available 24/7. It has also “collapsed” time zones so that regular evening conference calls is not uncommon.
Stress is no laughing matter though. We humans are simply not built for stress. For a constant low level of “threats” that keeps us in fight-or-flight.
And that’s the state of things for most people.
Seeing that people spend so much of their day at work, isn’t it time we looked at happiness at work?
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
Have you ever been so engrossed in a task that time stops? You look up and see that hours have flown by? Or when you so in the moment, your game is on, and you are “in the zone”?
This is called is flow, a concept researched and coined by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi (pronounced “cheeks sent me high” according to Positive Psychologist and author of Authentic Happiness Martin Seligman).
Flow can happen anytime anywhere, for anyone. That is when we are fully immersed and involved with what’s at hand. It’s the “optimal experience” because according to Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi, “the happiness that follows flow is of our own making, and it leads to increasing complexity and growth in consciousness”. It is deeper and more sustained.
Researchers found that for some, flow is frequently experienced and these are happier peeps. Words like “strong”, “active”, “creative”, and “motivated” were reported.
It’s theorized that we are investing in and building our “psychological capital that can be drawn on in the years to come”. So the more we can tap into flow, the healthier we are.
And what does this have to do with work?
In the studies, the unexpected result seen was that 54% of people at work reported flow versus 18% of people in leisure. This pattern was true for supervisors and assembly line workers alike.
This actually isn’t so surprising. Given how stressed they are at work, most people just want to relax after hours. Oftentimes, this is escapism in some way, even mindless “vegging out”. People want to be distracted. The problem, for many, is the level of unhappiness they feel at work. So then, if we can increase satisfaction and fulfillment in the workplace, it is a win-win situation. Individuals are happier – a win. Companies are more profitable from more productive staff – a win.
So What are the 9 Factors of Being in Flow?
1 Complete-able Task
The challenge must be something we can complete.
2 Clear Goals
What needs to be accomplished must be clear and understood. We must know the rules of engagement.
3 Skills Match Challenge
The challenge and skills do not have to be physical but they do have to match. Either increase the difficulty of the challenge or gain new skills to meet it. In the article Why Change Happens When You Get Out of the Comfort Zone? we see that we want to be stretched, just to be challenged, but not to the point of overwhelm.
Keeping the interest to optimize enjoyment comes from tweaking the skill:challenge ratio.
4 Focus + Concentration
The activity with the appropriate skill:challenge ratio keeps your mind focused only on what’s at hand. At completing the task. At solving the conudrum. Nothing else. We are not drifting off in daydream. Or making lists in our head.
5 Deep Effortless Involvement
While your concentration may be intense, there is no tightness or stress. It’s the opposite – you are energized and relaxed. That’s because you are one with the action. Not separated. You are internally and intrinsically motivated. You are literally poetry in motion.
6 Immediate Feedback
Feedback can be anything that helps us see where we are in relation to the goals. It depends not only on the task, but also on the person. Feedback comes in the form of information that we find useful, based on our own disposition and sensitivities.
More than having control, is not worrying about losing control. In flow, we have the ability to minimize risk – through our knowledge and skills.
8 Loss of Self- Consciousness
We are focused on the task and the worries and stresses of the day disappear. We are not caught in the 60,000 thoughts that go through our mind or a loop of doubting beliefs. What floats away is our sense of self-scrutiny.
We are in the moment, not in the past or the future. And we become one, paradoxically through greater awareness and allowing of self.
9 Altered Time Duration
Time stops. Within the activity, it seems time is suspended. It’s distorted at any rate because once the task is completed, I think the phrase “time flies when you are having fun” applies.
So How to Find Flow @ Work?
Given that work is more task-oriented, it is actually easier to find flow in the workplace. We are all good at something. It’s a matter of matching that skill to the appropriate challenge. A good thing for both the worker and the company. And sometimes you have to get creative.
Is it easier for the self-employed, specifically skilled, and business owners to find flow? Maybe.
What if it doesn’t matter what we do?
What if whatever career we have chosen, we have the intrinsic motivation to find joy and flow in the everyday tasks at the office?
For most people, work is one of the life’s “have-tos”.
Even though people reported more flow at work than in their leisure time, they wish they were doing something else. Remember people like being in flow.
So the conflict lies not in the mental or physical exhaustion that can come from being continually challenged. But their perspective about what work means.
People in general live to work, not work to live and tie their identity and sense of success with their job. And they begrudge it. For many reasons.
Happiness @ Work
Happiness @ work is crucial. From the point of view of the companies, it directly relates to productivity, and the bottom line that is so important to them. From the point of the individual, it impacts their sense of self-worth and meaning. From the point of society, it is positive growth and the fulfillment of our human potential.
Common workplace complaints such as problematic interpersonal relationships, heavy workloads, a lack of recognition, and not enough training reflect deeper challenges. These are symptomatic of greater imbalances in the world at large.
And the crux of it is – we don’t know how to be happy because we don’t know who we are. We have placed our power, our identity, and sense of self into money and into the pursuit of things we somehow have decided will bring us happiness.
Happiness @ work is a good place to start. We spend a lot of time there. It’s somewhat compartmentalized. In this microcosm, people can start to break down the barriers to greater collaboration. Mutual respect and understanding. Recognition of everyone’s contribution. Open communication.
Start with flow.