When it comes to work-life balance, are you a segmenter (you like to keep your work and home life separate) or an integrator (you like to blend your work and home life)?
I am definitely an integrator - I work both in the office and at home, and I regularly check emails and do bits of work on my non-work days and in the evenings. On the whole, this works for me as it enables me to fit work around my childcare and other commitments (as I write this, I'm listening to the sound of my washing machine spinning). And you may have recently read my colleague Richard Thompson's post about marching around a campsite while on holiday, looking for a signal so he could check his work emails - he's obviously an integrator too!
Although there are many benefits to this style of working, there are inevitable drawbacks - it's harder to identify when to stop working, when you've done "enough" (there's always more that you could do!) and to give yourself permission to switch off.
Regardless of your preference, Should You Set Clear Work-Home Boundaries gives some tips to help you best manage work-home boundaries (Kreiner, Hollensbe, & Sheep, 2009):
- Clearly communicate your preferences. Make sure you communicate your preferences for boundaries between work and home to your family and coworkers (both your peers and the people you supervise). If you can’t address work issues after a certain time at home, make sure that is known to your coworkers.
- Use tools and technology in a way that matches your preferences. If you prefer separating work from home, you can use separate work and personal email accounts or phone numbers and turn off notifications on work devices while at home. For those who prefer blending work and home, you can work from home more often in a “virtual workplace,” or use the same email address and phone number for all contacts.
- Manage your time. If you prefer separating work from home, stick to a strict work schedule or only check emails during work hours. You can also block off specific times in your calendar for strictly non-work, family, or friend time. Time management is equally important for those who like blending work and home. If your preference is to blend work and home, you should make sure to set aside time to distance yourself from your work to avoid stress and exhaustion.
- Manage your physical workspace. If you prefer blending work and home life, you can hang up photos of your friends or family in your workspace. If you prefer separating work and home, but need to complete work at home, try to create a separate space for work and only perform work-related tasks in that space, during a set time frame.
- Research an organization’s culture and policies. During the job-search and interview processes, research and ask about factors that allow for integration or segmentation (for instance, working from home, flextime, shutting off email after hours). Try to understand whether the organization actually supports flexibility and how it is that employees seem to be managing work-home boundaries (Kossek, Lautsch, & Eaton, 2005).