To be really engaged in any activity is something which psychologists refer to as ‘flow’. The mental state in which a person is fully focussed and positively immersed in a particular task or their work.
Some people can become so immersed in their activity they forget their basic need for food and water; looking up from their task and realising that hours have passed. This is in complete contrast to clock watching – when someone is so bored or tired of their task that they wish the hours away until it’s over.
Some people will never feel flow, some will feel it rarely. It’s not something which can simply be given or delivered and there must be the capability to feel it internally which is sometimes not possible with external stresses. It can however be encouraged and cultivated by providing a workplace which supports and nurtures a positive and complete focus in one’s work. Flow, or as close as you can get to it, creates great work, innovation, productivity, energy and employee wellbeing; clockwatching does not.
The best way to create a workplace where people can be fully immersed in their projects is to remove obstacles and hindrances.
An ergonomic setting is conducive to flow where the workplace is designed so that people can move and operate freely and efficiently without disruption. Workplace mess may affect some and may not bother others, but being unable to find necessary equipment etc., will remove anyone’s natural focus.
Jarring noises or incorrect temperatures can affect productivity far more than some may anticipate. Have you noticed as the winter sets in, we constantly comment that ‘it’s cold’. This is because being overly cold or hot can override all other feelings: our natural biological focus it to have our bodies feel comfortable before we can concentrate on anything else.
Being micromanaged also doesn’t create flow. Trust yourself to hire people that you can trust. Over managing and obsessively interrupting a project for feedback demotivates most employees who feel over scrutinised and undervalued. Most workers enjoy a certain amount of autonomy and will reward you for this by being more engaged in their work.
Communicate with employees. Ensure that they understand your business goals and any changes in strategy. Even the most focussed employees will struggle to relax into work if they are second guessing their job security. You pay their bills. Many managers forget that if an employee starts to feel that they may be financially vulnerable they will disengage and start to panic about their future more than they concentrate on their work. This benefits no one.
As a species, we love to feel part of a team. This, in part, is why we gravitate towards certain religions, supporting specific teams, being in sports, following certain celebrities… we like to feel part of a gang. If a workplace can create a team environment where every player knows their position and their task ahead and how they fit into the overall strategy, they can get emerged in the game, focusing on the goal, with no thoughts about the whistle being blown.