November 16th 2023
By: Marie-Christine Drouin | Stéphane Migneault

How Important Is Optimal Work Experience?

In today’s increasingly tumultuous world, the pursuit of personal and professional well-being is taking on greater meaning and importance. While the pandemic has brought its wake of transformations to the job market, the urge for a sense of well-being and purpose, and feeling professionally well-balanced, continues unabated. Widespread labour shortages and numerous employment opportunities often turn this pursuit into one of the most important criteria for finding a job.

What does “optimal experience” entail in the workplace?

While some workers might be content and fulfilled in their job, others might be despondent, depressed, or anxious. Are those who feel less happy at work condemned to this professional state? Of course not! We have more power than we think over our mental state. It’s possible to identify and create moments of happiness at work when we know how to bring together the necessary ingredients. But just what are those ingredients?

First off, what does this psychological phenomenon, called flow experience, mean? Simply, it can be described as a state of enchantment and well-being where everything seems to flow easily. It’s similar to a state of happiness, which people naturally seek throughout their personal and professional lives.

Key ingredients for an optimal work experience

1. Balancing challenge and skill

An optimal experience, whether at work or play, involves some kind of challenge (i.e. a certain level of difficulty) and requires skill. On the one hand, if the tasks at hand are too simple, they become unstimulating, or even boring. On the other hand, if the degree of difficulty is too high, workers can find it unpleasant, and this can cause them greater stress. In the long run, both can have a detrimental effect on overall well-being. As a worker, you need to strike a balance between challenge and skill, and be wary of both too much ease and, conversely, too much difficulty.

  • On the whole, do your tasks seem too easy? Too difficult? Or are they a happy medium?

If our tasks seem too easy, or even boring, what can we do to get closer to the optimal experience? We have a few options. For example, could we raise the standard of quality, or try to improve the efficiency with which we carry out these tasks?

2. Utter Focus

Most often, a state of flow mobilizes our entire concentration. When a person loves or perhaps even relishes their work, they tend to be completely absorbed and immersed in it. Concentration is in high demand, as they use their skills to take on responsibilities with a sufficient degree of difficulty (hence the challenge).

  • Do you ensure that you have all the winning conditions required to be fully immersed in your responsibilities?
3. Clear objectives and ongoing feedback

A professional activity that inspires flow generally involves clear objectives that are meaningful to the individual, and enable them to understand in concrete terms what contribution they can make to organizational objectives. They must also provide ongoing feedback to ensure that they continue in the same motivating direction or readjust to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

  • Let’s take an example. You’re writing a text (report, summary). You have one objective: to write a clear, concise and structured text. As the text takes shape, you see whether or not you’re heading in the right direction. Your objective is clear, and feedback is continuous.
4. Fewer Distractions

If our work is challenging, skill-intensive and demands our full attention, it greatly reduces the space available in our minds for distractions such as worry or mental ruminations. The more work activities fill our minds favourably, the less room they leave for more negative, intrusive thoughts.

  • Do you forget about your personal problems when you’re at work? If so, you may be in a state of optimal experience!
5. Dropping the “I” in ‘’Consciousness’’

When our attention is sufficiently focused on a task, there is also less space in our minds for preoccupations that only concern us. A worker who is fully and positively absorbed in his responsibilities is virtually at one with them. A common manifestation of this is not feeling hungry (which may even require a few reminders to keep our balance!)

  • Have you ever forgotten to eat because you were so absorbed in what you were doing?
6. A fleeting sense of time

An activity that induces a state of flux causes us to lose not only our self-awareness, but also our sense of time! Professional roles and responsibilities that make us virtually forget the passage of time are worth seeking out, as they often lead to a state of well-being.

Of course, no work is perfect all the time. However, if we truly seek to prioritize professional well-being, it’s our responsibility as workers to make choices, take actions or assume decisions to maintain, adjust or even reposition our careers accordingly.

Here’s an exercise you could do list the tasks, projects and mandates in which you lose track of time. Would it be possible to make more room for them in your professional objectives? Have you thought about informing your manager of the type of responsibilities you enjoy and find most stimulating? And if you’re a manager, do you make a practice of asking your employees about the type of projects and mandates that mobilize them the most?

Unsuspected benefits for employees and employers

The optimal work experience pays off for the employee:

  • Stress reduction;
  • Overall well-being;
  • Concentration;
  • Motivation;
  • Work satisfaction;
  • Better performance at work.

The employer can also reap benefits, such as:

  • Increased productivity;
  • Attracting, mobilizing and retaining talent;
  • Helping reduce absenteeism and presenteeism;
  • Etc.

An employee in the right place, with the best possible experience, is more likely to deliver a service that meets the client’s expectations!

Enemies of flow at work

The aforementioned ingredients of flow allow us to guess the conditions needed to achieve the optimal experience at work.

You won’t be surprised if we tell you that the enemies of flow include:

  • Lack of time (which prevents us from immersing ourselves in the task);
  • Distractions of all kinds (calls, e-mails, notifications, noise, cell phones, etc.);
  • Lack of sleep (which can affect concentration…);
  • Tasks that are too easy;
  • Etc.

We’ve taken a look at the world of work in the light of a most interesting psychological phenomenon: the optimal experience. To experience this state of happiness and enchantment, we benefit from undertaking professional activities that:

  1. Are challenging and require appropriate skills;
  2. Demand concentration;
  3. Have a clear objective and offer continuous feedback;
  4. Get rid of all distractions;
  5. Make us forget our self-awareness;
  6. Make us lose track of time.

Some factors can promote flow; others can be detrimental.

We encourage you to seek out the optimum experience at work to improve both your well-being and your performance. To find out more on the subject, we invite you to read any of the books listed in the bibliography.

Marie-Christine Drouin, M.Ps.

Leader – Talent Assessment, I/O Psychologist, Coach

Stéphane Migneault
Stéphane Migneault

Psychologist, speaker and collaborating trainer



  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2007). Living: the psychology of happiness. Éditions Pocket.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2006). Mieux vivre en maîtrisant votre énergie psychique. Éditions Pocket.
  • Terstegge, M. (2013). Flow: experience the benefits of optimal experience. Éditions de l’Homme.