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We’re back from our brief hiatus and are so glad to see you! The newsletter this week is all about the concept of flow. Specifically, we’re looking at:

  1. What is the relationship between remote e-working at flow?
  2. Does a goal-setting intervention improve flow?

Flow was a concept that gained some popularity after researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi appeared in this TED talk, which I definitely encourage you to check out. However, while the terminology may not have existed, the concept has been around for a long time. Particularly, the concept was deemed beneficial to improve learning by Maria Montessori, an Italian educator for whom the philosophy of teaching is named (Rathunde, 2015). More currently, research supports Montessori’s ideas in that flow does indeed lead to improved learner outcomes, for both children and adults (Shernoff et al., 2003; Csikszentmihalyi, 2013; Koehn & Morris, 2015).

Now that we have some background information on flow, let’s sea () what’s in store for this week!

Remote Work & Flow

Since the pandemic hit in 2020, many employers have shifted to remote work (Kniffin et al., 2020). One potential concern regarding learning and performance in work-from-home situations is the ability to separate work and home life. For instance, you might find yourself trying to respond to emails but suddenly remember that you left dirty dishes in the sink that you must attend to *now.* However, if we enter a focused state such as flow, then hypothetically those issues are not a concern. The authors of this article sought to understand how remote work and flow are related in this new normal (Taser, Aydin, Torgaloz, & Rofcanin, 2022).

This study utilized professionals in the financial sector in Turkey; all participants began working from home due to the pandemic outbreak. Data was collected through questionnaires sent via email. Variables of interest in the questionnaire were e-work life, technostress, loneliness, and flow (Taser et al., 2022). Results illustrated that positive remote e-working experiences were positively correlated with flow; those with positive remote e-working experiences were less likely to experience technostress. They also showed that technostress was positively related to loneliness, while loneliness was negatively related to flow (Taser et al., 2022). The last finding was that technostress and loneliness actually serially mediate the relationship between remote e-working and flow - illustrated that positive remote e-working leads to decreased technostress, which leads to decreased loneliness which leads to increased flow (Taser et al., 2022).

What does this mean moving forward in remote e-working? The authors provide the following suggestions (paraphrased):

  1. Organizations should provide support and training for technological skills if transitioning to remote work.
  2. Provide coping mechanisms for employees to navigate the remote work culture.
  3. Promote personal contact with employees to prevent the potential for loneliness.

Key Takeaways: As an organization, it is important to ensure employees feel confident and empowered in their remote environment. To address technostress - it may be beneficial to do a needs analysis for technology training and interpersonal contact for employees. To address loneliness - building ways for employees to communicate, similar to Intellum’s Tribe, may improve experiences with remote working.

Read More (open access): Taser, D., Aydin, E., Torgaloz, A. O., & Rofcanin, Y. (2022). An examination of remote e-working and flow experience: The role of technostress and loneliness. Computers in Human Behavior, 127.

A Nudge in the Right Direction

Overarchingly, flow as a construct has been neglected within the organizational literature. However, the studies that do exist generally assess what working conditions should be present for flow to “happen,” effectively rendering the employee as a passive participant. The authors of the current study aimed to change that narrative by evaluating an intervention aimed at increasing flow at work (Weintraub, Cassell, & DePatie, 2021). Flow is important in learning settings, as it illustrates the height of learner engagement. It should be a particularly crucial construct to organizations as ‘lack of engagement’ is “costing between $483 billion and $605 billion in lost productivity for the US economy annually” (Gallup, 2017; Weintraub et al., 2021).

To improve flow, an intervention was designed that provides a ‘nudge’ through a smartphone application, encouraging individuals to set daily goals. Establishing clear goals is an important component for achieving flow (Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2009).

The participants in the study were collected from mTurk, but all had other full-time employment. The intervention lasted 5 days in total, with participants submitting a few questionnaires each day. The measures included prevalence of flow, engagement, daily job performance, daily stress, and goal setting frequency. The control group and experimental group both completed the daily questionnaires. The experimental group also received a goal-setting nudge at 8 am every morning. For the nudge, “participants were asked to set three goals of their choosing which were specific, measurable, attainable, relevant for them that day, as well as challenging but not overwhelming” (Weintraub et al., 2021).

So, was the nudge effective at increasing flow? Short answer: yes! Participants in the daily SMART goal group showed increased self-reported flow at work, which predicted their daily work performance (˄), stress(˅), and engagement (˄). Although this intervention illustrated great success, more studies will need to be done to understand the reach of this type of intervention (Weintraub et al., 2021).

Key Takeaway: Individuals that engage in goal-setting behaviors daily illustrate more frequent flow, as well as higher work performance, lower stress, and higher levels of engagement. Thus, implementing an individual daily goal-setting procedure may improve learning and engagement.

Read More ($): Weintraub, J., Cassell, D., & DePatie, T. P. (2021). Nudging flow through ‘SMART’ goal setting to decrease stress, increase engagement, and increase performance at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 94, 230-258.

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

We have the absolute pleasure of presenting you with a true princess this week, Pip. Reader Steve R. says that "on a hot day, she loves nothing better than playing in the sprinkler." Thanks for sharing her with us, Steve!\

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Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!

The LSW Crew

Learning Science Weekly is written and edited by Kaitlyn Erhardt, Ph.D.

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