“Work-life balance” looks different for everyone - what that means for managers

Stephanie Andel, PhD
Team Humu

When you wake up on a weekday, which of the following would you prefer to do?

  • Immediately check your work email and start hammering out replies. You're most productive in the morning!
  • Take your time before diving into work. You like to start the day with a soothing routine like meditating, journaling, or preparing a delicious breakfast.
  • Skim your work email, address anything important or urgent, but then do something else for a bit before fully diving into work.

There's no right or wrong answer. But chances are you might be surprised at how many of your team members choose a different option than you do.

For most people, work-life balance ranks as one of the top things they’re looking for in a job. According to Visier, 42% of employees who switched roles within the past year did so in search of an opportunity that offered better work-life balance. Our proprietary research shows the same: in a recent survey of 200+ full-time employees, 79% said that they’d consider leaving their current job for one that better supports their wellbeing.

But figuring out exactly what “work-life balance” means to each person on a team isn’t straightforward. Individuals have greatly differing preferences for how they prefer to allocate their time. 

Integrators, segmentors, and cyclers

Work-life balance isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some people are “integrators”, others are “segmentors”, and the rest are “cyclers.”

  • Integrators are at their best when they’re able to blend their work lives with their personal lives. Integrators might pop out during work hours to take a yoga class or to run errands, but then don’t mind responding to work emails while watching Netflix in the evening. 
  • Segmentors strongly prefer to maintain a clear boundary between their work and personal life. Segmentors outperform when they’re able to focus fully on their job during business hours, and then completely detach from work during off-hours. 
  • Cyclers generally prefer to segment their work and personal lives, but don’t mind integrating the two when it’s necessary (like when they’re up against a major deadline). Cyclers may prefer to stick to work during business hours on a typical week, but they feel okay accommodating the occasional evening work call or weekend email.

Knowing your employees’ preferences lets you offer better support

Research shows that employees are happiest and most productive when their work-life preferences align with their day-to-day experiences. This creates an opportunity for managers: by understanding how your people work best, you’ll be better able to set them up for success—and help them craft a schedule that supports their wellbeing. 

For example:

  • If an employee is a segmentor or cycler, try to respect their boundaries as much as possible. If you write an email at 8pm that isn't urgent, schedule it to be sent during work hours. You might also consider scheduling meetings earlier in the day to ensure discussions don't run into evening time that segementors might prefer to spend with their friends or family.
  • If an employee is an integrator, make it a priority to offer them flexibility. Instead of focusing on when they’re working, set clear deadlines and give them the freedom to figure out how to hit them. Integrators value the ability to take a break in the middle of the day to run errands or fit in a workout, and are happy to then catch up on work in the evenings or over the weekend.

Set aside time to discuss team members’ preferences

So how can you determine your employees’ work-life preferences? The first step is to ask. During your next 1:1s, check in with each employee about their ideal balance strategy. Try asking: 

  • What does work-life balance mean to you? 
  • What does your ideal workday look like?
  • What does your ideal weekend look like?
  •  What can I do to better support you in finding balance?

To improve collaboration within your team, you can also turn these kinds of discussions into a group activity.

Ask your reports to take our "Ideal work-life boundaries" quiz and then set aside 20 minutes during your next team meeting to discuss everyone’s results. Make sure to share your own, too!

Together, brainstorm ways for the team to more effectively work together moving forward.

You can also help your team co-create norms that emphasize the importance of respecting each others’ preferences. A couple example questions you might want to discuss as a group:

  • Do we want to set “core hours” when people are expected to be available?
  • What guidelines or considerations should we implement around off-hours communication?
  • Are there any improvements we can make to regular meetings? 

If your reports often work with clients or on cross-functional project groups, encourage them to chat through these prompts at the outset of new projects. When teams take the time to surface and talk through different preferences early on, they avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings down the road.

By acknowledging the different ways your reports like to work, you’ll be able to better capitalize on each person’s strengths, improve wellbeing within your team, and hold onto your top performers.

Humu can help you create greater work-life balance for your team. Request a demo here to learn more.