Millennials are changing the workplace, their attitudes to work/life balance changing how things are done and when. How do you adapt? Melody Houssiaux explains how to go with the Flow.

Millennial Influence
Deloitte’s latest Global Human Capital Trends report highlights that "global organizations today must navigate a ‘new world of work’ - and that requires a dramatic change in strategies for leadership, talent, and human resources."

Organisations that continue believing they can retain people with paycheques and perks will sink. Leaders who continue believing in command and control, annual performance reviews and in promising work-life balance will sink.

Thankfully, Millennials (the generation born between early 1980’s and 2000 approximately) are ahead of the curve and have begun preparing for this moment.

Millennials are influencing the workplace

As Gallup recently explained, Millennials are demanding organisations and leaders replace the former with value-led structures, purposeful roles, personal development, on-going performance conversations and a holistic approach to work and life (because let’s face it, work is life too!).

At a recent event with friends, stories about interns were being shared: "Can you believe that when I asked her to complete the report by Thursday, not only did she say she had a better idea of how to do it but that if the deadline was Thursday then she would have to push something else down the priority line?!"

Everyone around the table nodded and said: "I know! Our intern does the same!" Yet secretly we were all thinking… they are right – their idea was actually better and I wish I had the courage to stand up for myself like that, say what I truly think and believe that my ideas can make a difference.

So how do we satisfy these Millennial needs? How do we transition our organisations, leaders and ourselves from our current state to the next and ensure we stay ahead of a breakneck future? We go with the Flow.

Ahh...the perfect working environment
Ahh.. the perfect work environment 

What is Flow?
Remember that time you felt you were playing at the top of your game? When you felt alive, deep satisfaction and you believed anything was possible? You felt energised, focused and you completely lost track of time?

The feeling might have lasted a few seconds or a few hours. It might have hit you as you were hiking in Wicklow, giving a presentation to your CEO, dancing at a wedding or playing the piano.

For me, it’s feeling surrounded by nature that often puts me into Flow. No matter where or when it happened, if you experienced the above, you experienced Flow – an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the architect behind the notion of Flow, explains that "When we are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter and the experience itself is so enjoyable that we will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it, we are experiencing Flow".

benefits of flow
Crack the code to experience Flow and you will feel happier and be more productive

The benefits of Flow
The old 'work hard, play hard' approach has led us to believe that we cannot have the two at the same time. Flow proves this is false. Experiencing pleasure, which is associated with play, and performing at the same time is possible.

Crack the code to experience Flow and you will feel happier and be more productive; you’ll be able to upgrade good moments into great ones.

The Flow Genome Project tells us that research has shown that the reason Flow feels so great is because it releases five of the most potent neurochemicals for motivation, learning, and well-being. As a result, our performance, creativity and problem-solving can spike by as much as 400%.

Imagine if as a leader you could tap into that unmined potential in your team; If your people were not only much happier and motivated at work but also producing much better results.

In Create a Work Environment That Fosters Flow McKinsey calculates that if we increase the number of moments people are in Flow by only 20%, overall workplace productivity would double. If organisations and leaders can create working environments where people truly feel fulfilled, motivated and successful, then engagement, retention, and performance will follow. It’s win-win for all.

Work/life balance can be attained while increasing performance

How to find Flow
So how can we bring more Flow into our lives and to those who we lead? The secret doesn’t lie in what you do, but how you do it. The key lies in maximising concentration and motivation. Here are a first few steps to start you off:

1. Skill 
If you feel bored or anxious just at the thought of tackling a task it usually indicates that there is a mismatch between the level of skill and challenge at play. The trick is to find the exact point where the challenge level is just slightly higher than your relevant skill level.

2. Goals
There is a very good reason why SMART goals never get old. So here it goes again. SMART stands for… Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-Bound.

3. Feedback
Annual, occasional or "end of project" feedback is not enough. Feedback on our performance needs to be immediate and continuous to leave no room for uncertainty.

For some activities, we can self-feedback but for others, we need to seek it externally – our manager, a colleague, a friend. If you are not getting it, ask for it.

4. Focus
We’ve all heard about the benefits of mindfulness. Rather than using it as a stand-alone technique, try applying it to work or an activity.

Immerse yourself fully in what you are doing. Channel all our thoughts, feelings, intellectual and physical abilities towards the task at hand. Multi-tasking is not an option – no, not even for women.

Flow’s incredible potential to amplify happiness, performance and productivity should not be underestimated. Tides are turning all around us and they are turning faster and faster. But don’t panic.

Now that you know how to find Flow, you are well equipped to make the most of what lies ahead. Recurrently both feeling and performing at your best lies within your grasp. Just go with the Flow.

Melody Houssiaux is a consultant for Flow Group, a specialist Leadership and Organisational Development consultancy working for change across global organisations for the past quarter-century.