By Arielle Rogers and Larissa Barber, guest contributors
Do you prefer keeping your work life separate from your home life, or do you like blending the two?
The answer to that question could have a significant effect on whether you’ll feel satisfied in a given job.
If you set clear boundaries between work and home, you are a segmenter. Segmenters rarely bring work home. They tend to answer emails only while at work and might keep separate calendars for their work and personal lives (Nippert-Eng, 1996).
If you blend your work and home life, then you are an integrator. Integrators might set up an in-home office, converse with their partners about work at the dinner table and invite coworkers over to the house for a party (Nippert-Eng, 1996).
Which is better—integration or segmentation?
Both segmentation and integration have benefits, as well as drawbacks.
Those who set clear boundaries between work and home experience less conflict between the two domains (Olson-Buchanan & Boswell, 2006). In other words, segmenters are able to give enough of their time and energy to both areas in order to be and feel successful.
Segmenters are also more likely to mentally “switch off” from work (Park, Fritz, & Jex, 2011), which may help lower stress and exhaustion (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2008).
Integrators also get some benefits—they experience less negativity when work creeps into their home life. For instance, when contacted at home by someone from work, integrators feel less annoyed than employees who want to keep home and work separate (Olson-Buchanan & Boswell, 2006).
Additionally, for integrators, work experiences are more likely to positively influence home experiences and vice versa (Greenhaus & Powell, 2006; Illies, Wilson, & Wagner, 2009). Positive emotions experienced at home influence employees’ work lives by helping them achieve work-related goals.
Of course, your preference for integration or segmentation might not align with what is expected of you at work. For example, if you’re a segmenter who works with integrators, you can feel forced into doing things like checking your email at home.
How stressed or satisfied you feel at work is influenced by whether your workplace supports your preferences for integration or segmentation (Kossek & Lautsch, 2012; Kreiner, 2006). So your fit with the organization is what matters most (Kreiner, 2006).
Tips for striking the right work-home balance
Regardless of your preference, there are several tips you can use to help you best manage work-home boundaries (Kreiner, Hollensbe, & Sheep, 2009):
Technology continues to change the way we manage boundaries between work and home. However, these tips can help employees to manage boundaries in a way that fits their own personal preferences.
Arielle Rogers is a doctoral student studying social and industrial-organizational psychology at Northern Illinois University. Her research is focused on occupational health, personality and emotional labor. She is particularly interested in work-life balance and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of emotions in organizations.
Dr. Larissa Barber is an assistant professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University. She teaches courses on industrial-organizational psychology, research ethics, personnel psychology and occupational health psychology. Her research is focused on occupational stress, sleep and recovery, and work-life balance.
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