Are you a work-life integrator or segmentor?

“You’re on mute.”

The most-uttered phrase of 2020?

Since the start of the year, when “WFH” became commonplace, I’ve had numerous conversations with clients and friends about the way their attitude to remote working might have changed. While some people have mentioned that they are “missing the face-to-face interactions with colleagues that are really important to me. Zoom meetings just aren’t the same”, others have been inclined to share that “it’s actually not as bad as I thought it might be, mostly because without a 2-hour commute each day, I feel like I have much more time to myself”.  

And it gets even more personal. A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with Connor, our Graphic Designer. He came up close to the webcam and showed me his moustache. He was really proud of his “lockdown growth”. Well, who wouldn’t see this as an invitation to a competition? I showed him my growing moustache, too!

Integrate or segment?

If you’ve noticed that the way you tackle your working day has seen some adjustments during 2020, you might be interested in the theory of integrators and segmentors, and how these personality types typically function in the traditional – and the “new normal” – office environment.

Have a think about which of the below best describes how, prior to COVID, you typically went about your working day:

Integrators:

  • Tended to blur work-life boundaries
  • May have had personal photos on your desk at work, or had family drop by to visit during the day
  • Regularly took work home (and were quite happy to do this!)
  • Were happy to complete life admin during “work time” and work during “family time”.
  • Didn’t have a clear distinction between their work and home wardrobes

Segmentors:

  • Typically strived to preserve more distinct work-life boundaries
  • Would have taken work-related calls at work, and family-related calls at home
  • Were more likely to stay late in the office to finish things off than bring work home
  • Might even have had separate calendars for work and life: plus separate phones, separate key chains, separate hand bags…

This article by the Harvard Business Review, which was spotted by Kosta, our HR Intern, dives deeper into how integrators and segmentors – employees and managers alike – have survived and thrived in the home office environment.

Is it really this black and white? Perhaps not.

Personally, I see it as a sliding scale of sorts. In terms of content and ideas, I’d describe myself as an integrator (I’ll often be inspired for work when I’m talking to other parents at the playground, whilst pushing my daughter on the swing!) but in terms of time, I’m very disciplined on only doing one thing at a time and I definitely have clear boundaries – my wardrobe, the room I work in and the hours I spend working – making me more of a segmentor. That doesn’t mean I work 9-5 though. With two young kids, volunteer board commitments and my own business, I try to work when I have energy for certain things. Usually it’s in the morning and then later at night when the kids have gone to bed.

Building boundaries

Would I be challenging Connor to a mo-off in the “old” world? Of course not…and not just because I’d have had more opportunities to visit the salon! Many of us have adapted to seeing our colleagues only on video call – meaning that the lines are blurred and sometimes it’s very hard to work out the boundaries.

Regardless if we’re integrating or segmenting, boundaries – in particular the boundaries of time and space – are important. When we’re working from home, it’s easy to allow the loss of the boundaries between personal and professional to affect work and relationships. If you live with a partner or family, tension can arise if you don’t know when you’re going to have the space and time to work and live in the way that you need.

We’re also at greater risk of “presenteeism” – where we’re physically present but mentally, somewhere else. My son shows me a painting he’s made and I, my head still firmly at work, distractedly respond: “Oh…yeah…great…”.  Guilty.

Let’s talk transition tactics

As we move between different domains of life, we need transition tactics. Previously, most of us would finish work for the day, and then physically transition into our home environment – those boundaries were established for us. Right now, to avoid those potentially friction-filled moments of distractedness, we can establish small ways in which to build healthy time and space boundaries.

It could mean closing the door to your working space to ensure no interruptions during a busy period. It could mean filling your usual commute time with a walk outside, listening to the same podcast you’d listen to on the train, to bridge the gap between work and home. Maybe you can change out of your work clothes and into a more comfortable outfit to signify that work has ended, and you can allow yourself to start to relax.

We’ve been working from home for a while now. What do the boundaries look like in your environment?

  • Do you see yourself as an integrator or segmentor? If you’re working from home during the pandemic, how has that affected your view
  • What boundaries are serving you well?
  • What new boundaries might you like to create?
  • What transition tactics work for you?

When we’re clear on when and where we can work, have me-time, couple time, family time and when these boundaries and agreed and respected, life becomes a lot less stressful. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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The Intime Collective continues to deliver online Masterclasses to keep your teams connected at home and work. If you’re looking for an innovative way to help them to drive success in our new normal, drop me a line and let’s chat! hello@theintimecollective.com

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