Professor dr. Arnold B. Bakker; Professor of Work and Organizational Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Past President of EAWOP.


Flow is a state of consciousness where people become totally immersed in an activity, and enjoy it intensely. According to Csikszentmihalyi (1997), such a peak experience may emerge in any situation in which there is activity. Researchers have indeed found evidence for flow during the performance of a large number of different activities, including sports (e.g., golf, athletics and swimming), creating art, and playing music.

Flow at Work
The most prominent definitions of flow have three elements in common, namely absorption (i.e., the total immersion in an activity), enjoyment, and intrinsic motivation. These three elements are the core components that are usually included in flow research (e.g., Csikszentmihalyi, 1997; Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1988). Accordingly, when flow is applied to the work situation, it can be defined as a short-term peak experience at work that is characterized by absorption, work enjoyment and intrinsic work motivation (Bakker, 2005, 2008). Absorption refers to a state of total concentration, whereby employees are totally immersed in their work. Time passes quickly, and they forget everything around them (cf. Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Employees who enjoy their work and feel happy make positive judgments about the quality of their working life (cf. Veenhoven, 1984). This enjoyment or happiness is the outcome of cognitive and affective evaluations of the flow experience. Finally, intrinsic motivation refers to performing a certain work-related activity with the aim of experiencing the inherent pleasure and satisfaction in the activity (cf. Deci & Ryan, 1985). Intrinsically motivated employees are continuously interested in their work. Employees who are motivated by the intrinsic aspects of their work tasks want to continue their work; they are fascinated by the tasks they perform (Bakker, 2008).