What type of person are you? Here's what these labels mean and how to use the traits to find a better work life balance.
We all have a different vision of what work life balance looks like. It depends on your stage of life, who's in your life, what work you're doing and what else you're juggling and that, of course, can and will change throughout your life.
The concept of establishing whether you're an integrator or a separator in your natural leanings and noting when this changes within your life can provide helpful guidance on this, ever-changing, journey.
So what are integrators and separators and how can an understanding of our preferred work-life balancing styles help us to work with them, not against them. Do you like to shut the door on work at 5.30pm and switch to your home life or do you prefer to run work and life in parallel?
- Blend work and personal tasks/commitments.
- Have no clear line between work life and personal life.
- Often prefer to work in agile ways - taking charge of attending to business or personal needs as they arise.
- Enjoy multi-tasking and changing roles throughout the day to stay on top of everything.
For integrators, there is no clear line between work life and personal life. You like making the most of your time by catching up on emails during a quiet moment at a sporting event or dashing out for a quick business call during the school concert interval.
Those who thrive on this lifestyle are called 'Fusion Lovers'. There are also people who have become Integrators through necessity, but in terms of type and preference we are talking here about those who would prefer to design your life this way.
- It can create perception you don't place enough value on either - garnering resentment from either or both family and colleagues.
- People may not understand your schedule - confused as to whether you are at work or at home. Colleagues and family may not know when they can interrupt you to discuss different matters.
- Switching between roles and tasks can take more time and energy than focusing on one thing at a time.
- It may be hard to switch off from work at any time and result in working really long days.
- Working parents and carers may become Integrators by necessity - known as 'Reactors' which can result in feelings of overwhelm and a longing to have more control of work life boundaries.
- Like to keep work and personal tasks/commitments divided.
- Generally prefer to compartmentalise by using physical space,schedules and clear sense of identity in their different roles.
- Might be 'work-firsters', 'family-firsters' or 'dual-centric' separators.
- Find 'separating' to be best way of coping and thriving in both worlds.
For separators, there is a clear line between work life and personal life. You focus on work when you're at work and you focus on personal life when you're at home.
- Possible resentment (or perception of resentment) from colleagues who feel there's a lack of 'give and take' if boundaries are firm.
- May experience frustration when pressures force you to integrate.
- Those who become separators under pressure are known as 'captives'.
- May miss out on opportunities to transfer skills and learning between work identity and home identity.
- Possibly carry regrets about downshifting career aspirations.
- Life works in cycles, switching between periods of integrating and separating work life and personal life depending on priorities and circumstances.
- Integrate work and home life at crucial, busy times and then separate when possible.
- Might prioritise work during parts of the year that are busy for their role, or sector - or 'alternate' across each week.
Alternators have found their own way of giving their best to each role, integrating work and home life at crucial, busy times and then separating it when possible. When this works well, you feel in control and satisfied.
- Changing styles can confuse those around alternators because their behaviour is not predictable.
- Can be very hard to negotiate a working pattern to fit your personal preferences - there are few roles in current corporate cultures that support large swings between styles.
- Tasks and activities may be more difficult to prioritise and address when different styles are used in different circumstances.
- Alternators can find their support systems may break down as these may not be consistent.
Changing styles and unpredictability can confuse those around them and switching between styles needs increased brainpower to 'get back into the swing' and can potentially be harder to manage aspects of your life due to inconsistencies.