Is it just me or did more people than ever take leave over the July school holidays this year? Maybe everyone is still making up for that lost time during the pandemic, or perhaps it’s just a collective need for a much-needed mid-year break. Whatever the reason, it felt like half the country went to Europe in the last month! At Transitioning Well, many of our team took leave, including myself and my co-founder Sarah.
It’s not often Sar and I take leave at the same time. In this case our time off only overlapped briefly, but with so many of our team on leave at once (gallivanting around Europe!) we needed to talk about who would hold the fort.
It led to an interesting discussing that I wanted to share, and it’s a conversation we have a lot at Transitioning Well. It started with, “Are we separators, integrators or cyclers?”
First of all, it’s important to understand what each of these mean in a leave context.
An integrator on leave may like to check in while they’re away. That’s me! I like to check my emails, and be responsive to anything urgent. For some people, that might sound like anything but a holiday. For me, it means I don’t worry about coming back to an out-of-control inbox. Believe it or not, it actually helps me relax.
Then there are segregators – that’s Sar’s preference in an ideal word whereby she can switch off completely and focus on the downtime she has carved out for herself.
Interesting, given the realities of small business, however, Sar often falls into a third category called cyclers, which means alternating between periods of completely separating from work and integrating life and work.
These terms were introduced in Ellen Kossek’s work on boundary management styles, which you can read here.
Interestingly, research suggests that Sarah’s method is best in order to protect mental health and wellbeing, and support a recharge. For a long time, this knowledge made me question if that means I’m more prone to burnout because I have an inability to completely switch off.
And I don’t have the answer to that, except to say that it doesn’t feel that way to me.
As a team of workplace psychologists, we continue to debate the topic.
What we know for certain is that knowing your style is important to ensuring you’re getting, and asking for, what you need when you have downtime.
If you’re a manager, it’s also important to know the style of the people in your team, and support them to work in ways that allow them their preference to recharge.
So, if you have a Justine on your team who wants to check in on emails poolside, it’s about letting them do just that, so that they’re not spending their leave tied up in knots about what awaits them on their return.
If you have a Sarah, it’s equally important to make sure you’ve set up processes that allow them to completely switch off and unwind.
For some people (aka the cyclers), there might be something in between that works for them.
What’s important is acknowledging that different people have different needs, and doing what you can to support those needs.
For Sar and me, it comes down to having those conversations, like the integrator, separator or cycler one, and doing what we can to support each other to get the reset we need so that we can continue our work and help more people manage the messy intersections between life and work (much like these ones).
You can learn more about boundary management and strategies to improve life-work integration in our Focus@Work series.