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March 6, 2021
The construct of flow has been associated with a plethora of positive work outcomes such as performance, engagement, and reduced burnout. However, flow is understudied in the domain of work and there is a lack of empirical examinations of flow interventions. Additionally, until recently, the vast majority of research examining flow at work assumes that individuals are passive agents who only experience flow when their working conditions facilitate the state. Therefore, the study tested a ‘SMART’ goal‐setting nudge intervention for individuals, aimed at increasing flow at work and its positive outcomes. Results of a 5‐day experimental experience sampling study with 65 American MTurk workers (who work full‐time besides MTurk) indicate that those in the goal‐setting condition experienced more flow at work and subsequently experienced less daily stress, as well as higher engagement and subjective performance when compared to the control group. Exploratory analyses revealed that flow decreased later in the week within‐day for participants in the control group, whereas flow remained relatively stable within‐day for those in the goal‐setting condition. Moreover, certain categories of goals, such as mastery goals, resource acquisition goals, and understanding goals, were found to be significant predictors of daily flow.

Practitioner points

Flow at work predicted daily stress, daily performance, and work engagement.

Self‐determination strategies (Occupat Health Sci, 1, 2017, 47), such as goal setting, can increase the amount of flow experienced at work and its subsequent positive outcomes.

Nudges (Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness, Yale University Press, 2008) can provide reminders for individuals to engage in behaviors that help them to experience flow and its positive work outcomes.

A proposed model was supported as a framework practitioners can use to better understand flow at work along with its antecedents and outcomes.

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Author: Jared Weintraub,
David Cassell,
Thomas P. DePatie