Segmentors vs Integrators: work-life balance

Work-life balance is a problem for too many people right now.

For example, in the US, people enter the phrase balance in search engines more than 22 thousand times a month, in India 9,900, in Australia 3,600, and in Germany – 18.1 thousand times. It’s such a hot topic that about 450 new articles on work-life balance are published online every month.

Mainly, the entire focus of this thread is on the individual finding the perfect balance. Visionary managers who practically look for ways to support this drive in people are in most cases forced to solve the problem themselves. Let’s fix this. By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll understand the two main approaches to work-life balance, how they affect the needs of different team members, and how to adapt to both styles without losing your mind.

How do you determine if your team members are integrators or segmentors?

At a high professional level, people try to achieve balance by strictly dividing the day into separate parts (segmenters – into work and personal life) or by switching between work and personal activities during the day (integrators). If we look at the problem closely, integration and segmentation represent more of an immediate whole and unity, without significant difference, than a binary choice. But most people tend to gravitate toward just one option.

Integrators of work and personal life

Smooth transition from work to personal life and vice versa.
They don’t mind answering emails and chats after hours (within reason, of course) because some have preferred to go to practice in the middle of the day.
They like to “talk business” outside of work and enjoy chatting about their personal lives with colleagues.
Segmenters of work and personal life.

Clearly define the limits of working hours – they end work immediately after the end of the working day.
They prefer to discuss personal matters outside of working hours.
They are not supporters of the concept of “take the child with you to work” and do not even keep photos of their family in the office and on the desk.
As you study the team, you’ll find it’s fairly easy to determine who’s using what approach. And a pro tip – if in doubt, just ask.

What do integrators want from their boss?

Flexibility and trust. For integrators, balance means being able to pop out in the middle of the day for a meeting or leave early to pick up the kids. But you have to trust them that in the evening they will find time to work and will be on the line if you want to contact them about something.

Team events. Integrators crave personal connections and camaraderie with colleagues, so they relish the opportunity to have fun as part of a team. They will help you plan such an event if you have the time and budget.

Indicators of success. Observing whether the number of hours worked does not prove the employee’s dedication or diligence in the work. This is doubly true for integrators who juggle work and personal tasks throughout the day. They need clear, measurable goals against which performance is measured.

What do segmenters want from their boss?

Stability. A key factor in the work of segmenters is a stable schedule. They prefer to go to the gym, and to the dentist and do family work outside of work hours. If they constantly change their work schedule, after a while they will start to feel stressed.

Respecting boundaries. No matter what work schedule you’ve agreed upon, it’s important to them that you stick to it. Please no appointments at 17:00 if the working day ends at 16:30. If you send an email or chat message after hours, be sure to let them know they may respond the next day unless it’s an emergency.

Opportunity to speak. Segmenters do not discuss work problems with family or friends. They want to know that if there is a problem, they can go to their supervisor and they will be heard.

According to an internal study by the company Google, segmentors are generally more successful than integrators. Many people who behave and act like integrators are segmenters deep down. They just don’t understand how to break free from the “always online” mentality. If you see that there are such people on your team, suggest that they block notifications on their phones after the end of the work day or completely remove work apps.

5 ways to combine the two styles

Before you set out to determine management tactics, take a moment to consider where you are on the spectrum. A little introspection will help you figure out which tactics will have the biggest impact on your team.

Evaluate work based on results. It’s foolish to judge a person’s contribution based on hours worked, but many managers fall into this trap without even realizing it. Instead, set clear goals and success metrics for each team member. If they achieve their goals, it doesn’t matter what time of day the work is done.

Establish core business hours. It’s perfectly normal to require all team members to work at certain times of the day. This makes it easy to schedule meetings and other types of collaborative work (typically 10 am to 3 pm), but be flexible outside of these hours. Give the segmenters a clear timeline and give the integrators the space they need to maneuver. Bonus: This allows everyone to commute to work at an off-peak time of day.

Encourage feedback and reflection. Conducting regular retrospective reviews is a great way to discuss the workflow from different angles, raise issues, and find solutions. Be open to receiving feedback from subordinates on an individual basis or in a more personal setting, such as face-to-face meetings.

Be a team. Take time to rest, recover, and get to know each other better. This combination of work and free time is best suited for integrators. And if such events are held during working hours, it will also give a chance for entertainment to the segmenters who usually avoid corporate parties or “friends and family” days.

Use your tools. Whenever possible, choose tools that allow the team to self-adjust. So that both integrators and segmentors set their own boundaries. Consider whether team members must install work apps on their phones. Integrators love the convenience of the Slack app while training, but segmenters will appreciate being able to ditch it.

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