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Editorial Team
08 Jan 2019



Integrating it or Segmenting it - What’s your Spice for Work-Life Balance?


Adapting to your Integrator or Segmentor DNA to find Happiness at Work

Things that make you healthy and happy:

  • Living within a mile of a happy friend
  • Changing your social network to lose weight
  • It’s all in your DNA
  • Work-life balance

The first three are results of the longitudinal Framingham Heart Study that is in its third generation since its inception in 1945. The fourth and the last one is, however, a red herring.

There is a fireman, who walks home after work in flip-flops, takes a bath and then hugs his wife and children; not before that. He is a happy man, content with his job and likes to keep work and life separate. While listening to the Ted Talk of Adam Grant, a Wharton Professor, and Organizational Psychologist, we come across a happy man again who says “I love work”. When Grant did not know his wife, a fun Saturday for him was working from 7 am to 9 pm. Yes, friends complained that he was never really there, but Grant loved work so much that it pained when he left an unanswered email.

Two happy employees in a single paragraph – this is what Utopia must look like.

But, we do not see the Utopia anytime soon. You thought syncing office email to the mobile device will keep you on the spot with all the updates. What you got in the bargain was answering work emails on weekends. Technology might come up with a sincere apology someday, but for now, it is blurring the lines that separate work and personal lives. Stress at work is bleeding into your life and your life is making a pretty good acquaintance of your work. Google, inspired by Framingham Heart Study, came up with gDNA at its People Innovation lab. Jennifer Kurkoski and Brian Welle are the Googlers leading the research and they plan to get the research going long-term, maybe for a century.

The question is: how people see work? And the first generation subjects are 4000 Googlers who take two detailed surveys each year.

  • The first round saw 31% of the employees breaking the technology jinx. They found the magic line that divides work from life. They do not prefer to carry work stress back home. These are “segmentors” somewhat like the old-fashioned fireman we talked about earlier.
  • The remaining 69% are blurring the line between work and life. And not all of them are at peace with it like Adam Grant. He is a fine example of an “Integrator”. More than half of them wish they could segment it better. They would opine, “It is often difficult to tell where my work life ends and my non-work life begins.”

We just found the trouble area – people who want to be more like segmentors, but end up being integrators.

As a part of the study, Google’s Dublin office came up with the “Dublin Goes Dark” program. All they did was drop off their devices at the front desk while leaving for the day and they had a stress-free good evening.

We are surely rooting for the segmentors here:

But, then there is a crucial project coming that will eat up your weekend joys. Most of the employees (Google says 69%) will be there at work on a weekend; does not matter they are happy or not. The 31% segmentors will not be happy about it. What they can do about it?

Let’s see what Adam Grant has to highlight when he takes in the expert advice of Chris Voss who spent a good 24 years as FBI hostage negotiator.

  • How am I supposed to do it?” Do not be rude or march head-on with accusation. Inquire as you have all the good intentions and explain your situation. They will get it.
  • Put a label (not ring) on it. Reinstate what your boss might be throwing around in hints by asking a “yes or no” question. If your boss implies, “you have to do it in spite of it being a weekend and take calls while out with family.” You label it as, “It seems to me like you are not much concerned about my 100% here when it comes to efficiency and just interested in calculating my hours in attention.
  • If not you, then someone else. It will be your colleague who has to be there, answering emails. Do not ask, “Will you do this for me just this one time?” but go, “It’s too unreasonably outrageous to pile this load on you.” Do not make them say “yes” too hard and you get more “happy to help”.

Tips for unhappy integrators:

Now, let’s talk about the integrators who want to be segmentors. Start with this little tweak – forget balance and set boundaries. So you are there working and a “9 to 5, 40 hours per week” schedule is a red herring (ahem ahem). You decide to change it. The clock strikes 5 and you are out of the office. At the dinner table the mixtape known as ‘work stress’ is running on a loop at the back of your head. Next day at work, you feel guilty for not being completely there with your family. Cut the very concept of attaining a balance and focus on setting boundaries. Be a lopsided balancer. When at work, go for it — 100% or more. Complete the task and take no stress home. When you are enjoying life, psychologically bar yourself from over thinking about work. Make it a habit and you are good to go.

So, are you an integrator or segmentor? Tell us your happy place and stress bursting formulas.

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