At Work, Are You an Integrator or a Segmenter?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to work-life balance
Let’s do an exercise: Take a minute to define your ideal work-life balance. Think about how you’ll divide your time between these two parts of your day — the personal and the professional — and how you’ll transition between them.
Which of these two descriptions feels more in line with what you’ve just dreamt up?
- I draw a hard line between my career and my non-work roles, and I don’t want to mix them. When I’m on the clock, I’m focused on my job, so that I don’t have to think about sending any late-night emails once I’m done for the day.
- I like having the freedom to blend my work life and non-work life, and move back and forth between the two as needed. I’m at my best when I can be flexible — taking a work call after dinner seems like a fair trade to be able to run an errand during work hours.
Researchers call people who relate to the first description segmenters, meaning they avoid overlap between their work and home lives. Segmenters may also keep separate calendars for office and personal appointments, for example, or carry a separate business phone. They may even make it a habit to eat different foods while on the clock, or change outfits to signal a transition to downtime. Because they have rigid boundaries, segmenters almost see themselves as two distinct people: “me at work” and “me in regular life.”
Integrators, on the other hand, are happier when they can blur the boundaries between work and home. Unlike segmenters, integrators often think about work outside of the office: They may have career-related conversations at the dinner table or read for professional development in their spare time. And going out socially with colleagues feels natural to them. Integrators draw fewer (if any) mental, physical, or emotional lines between their work and who they are outside the office: To them, the two identities are one and the same.
Despite what productivity gurus might tell you, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to work-life balance. The labels of integrator and segmenter exist along a spectrum, and most people fall somewhere between the two. When Google administered a work-life balance survey…