Since the start of the pandemic, there have been approximately a million and one think pieces on the topic of remote work: Is it good or bad? Hurting our productivity or increasing it? Hampering creativity or increasing focus?
While these are valuable questions to ask, they mask a simple truth. Remote work is different for different people. Not only do we have different home situations and career trajectories, we also have different personalities.
And according to a fascinating recent post by Wharton professor Nancy Rothbard on the school's Knowledge@Wharton site, our individual preferences and quirks have a big impact on both how we handle remote work and how successful we are at it.
Rothbard divides people into two groups -- integrators and segmentors -- and says understanding which approach comes more naturally to you and to your team can help you all get more done, faster, with less stress.
Are you a segmentor or an integrator?
We all face the same essential challenge when we work from home (and even, to a lesser degree, when we work onsite): How do you divide your time, space, and attention between competing demands? Segmentors and integrators answer that question very differently.
Segmentors crave clear separation, spatially and temporally, between work and home. Working at the kitchen table with the kids drifting in and out of Zoom calls is definitely not for them. Give them a quiet garden shed and defined working hours any day.
Integrators gravitate toward the opposite approach. They don't mind answering emails in between helping the kids with their schoolwork. A late-night call doesn't faze them, but then neither does closing the laptop for a lunchtime run.
Much of the advice out there for remote work -- get dressed each morning, break up the day with remote water cooler chat -- applies more to one group than the other. Understanding which you belong to will help you sort out not only which advice will be useful for you, but also help you get more out of your team if you're a leader.
Practical tips for your type
What sort of practical changes might understanding your type and the type of your team lead to? In the complete article, Rothbard offers loads of examples, including these actionable tips to ensure that both segmentors and integrators can make the most of their workdays:
Don't pick sides. "Neither integrators nor segmentors are better or more committed than the other," Rothbard reminds managers. Your life will be easier if you remember that and allow everybody to pursue the strategy that's best for them.
Rotate the pain. Even if you respect everyone's preferences, you still have to work together. That will likely mean some team members sometimes compromising on how and when they work. Just make sure that you rotate the pain so it's not always the segmentors or the integrators who are losing out.
Utilize rituals. Segmentors crave a bright line between work and home, but in our current reality that can be hard to achieve. Rituals can help. Even if you're only going across the corridor to start your day, taking a walk around the garden first or setting aside a few minutes to plug back into work can help you keep things separate mentally.
Set boundaries. Integrators, on the other hand, often struggle to focus as they allow different demands to pull them in different directions. Thinking ahead about exactly what you will let distract you during different times of your workday can help keep your productivity on track.
Are you a segmentor or an integrator, and what's your biggest work-from-home productivity challenge?