How Do You Make Labor Less Laborious?

Written by Alicia Parr

Published on Sep 6, 2016
Work, work, work, work, work, work You see me I be work, work, work, work, work, work You see me do me dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt There’s something ’bout that work, work, work, work, work, work


Every year, we celebrate Labor Day, our yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to our country.  We’ve been doing this for a long time. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883. (source –

We at All Elements would never begrudge the chance to take a well-earned break from laboring, but we are compelled to wonder what makes labor laborious.  Is it possible for work to be more intrinsically motivating?  If so, what does that look like? So in today’s post, we’re going to do just that.  Here’s the top three ideas you can apply in your business.  

Knowing what you’re responsible for and having the authority to do it.

I have a friend that changed jobs earlier this year after some real frustration.  She is incredibly capable and what many people would consider a high potential, so it seems like the solution would be to find a bigger role.  Yet, the job she moved into is narrower in focus, and she is MUCH HAPPIER in it than she was at the previous employer.  It is 100% because she is very clear on what is required of her and she has everything she needs to do her job well. I’m not saying the solution is moving into a smaller role.  I’m saying that if you are crystal clear on what you are accountable for and you have the authority to make the decisions that enable you to fulfill that accountability, that strips away much of the stress and frustration that we may associate with work.  You can TRUST that what you are responsible for is what will determine your success.  You don’t have to wonder. If you are a manager, are you being crystal clear about what both you and your team members are accountable for?  Do you and your team members have the authority to match that accountability?  If not, it’s not too late to do something about that.  

Amplify your intrinsic motivation through autonomy, mastery and purpose.

In Dan Pink’s book Drive, he points to the precursors of intrinsically motivating work.  Pink discovered that work is more motivating when you have the right amount of autonomy, you stretched to build mastery, and you can grasp a larger purpose in the work. Keep in mind that this isn’t a more-is-better situation, but about getting the match right for the person and the role.  For example, too much autonomy results in floundering and confusion.  Too little autonomy feels like micromanagement.  It’s true with getting the right amount of stretch in pursuit of mastery.  Purpose is about seeing how your work contributes to something bigger than you– whether it’s your team’s, unit’s, and company’s purpose or a larger social and spiritual good.

Get in the flow.

According to Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, being in the “flow” state is  “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Does that sound laborious to you? Me either.  So how do you achieve flow? One of the criteria for achieving flow is a balance between skill and challenge, such that you are at the leading edge of your current capability.  If there is too little challenge, you have boredom and apathy.  If you have too much challenge, you have anxiety and frustration.  According to Csikszentmihalyi, other precursors to flow are clarity of goals, immediate and unambiguous feedback, and concentration on the task at hand. If you are a manager, what can you do to enable your team to experience more flow more often?

The role of software in fulfilling work.

At All Elements, we believe in that every business is a People Ecosystem TM.  When people find their work environment to be motivating, this unleashes more of the people energy in the People Ecosystem– the People Ecosystem that is your business. It’s like giving high-octane, clean fuel to your race-car-sized engine instead of settling for the cheap stuff.  Don’t you want your business running on all cylinders?  So do we and we believe that software can help.  How so? Lining up accountability with authority.  Lots of managers use All Elements to show, keep track of, and stay up to date on what each team member is responsible for.  We see first hand how transparency of responsibilities make work more rewarding and purposeful.  Clear, easy to use goal tracking with continuous feedback functionality helps you get accountability crystal clear and synced up with how things get done. Augment intrinsic motivation. Our clients use All Elements to track competency mastery, define autonomy, and link goals to the larger goals of the business.  We believe good software makes it easier to do the things that create rewarding work, and we’re all about building that kind of software. Getting in the flow. We like flow at All Elements, so we build in features like continuous feedback, clear goals, and visible progress.  These are some of the most important precursors to flow so you don’t have to fight against your systems to do your best work.

Best places to work use All Elements. Join them.