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Houston expert shares advice for business founders leading dual interest workforces

A new study shows a mixed workforce — some like the work-life blend and some want to check out of their jobs at 5 pm. How can you design a workplace culture that fits both? Photo via Getty Images

Managers are facing a new challenge after a recent Gallup survey revealed the chasm between work-life splitters and blenders. While splitters prefer a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job with a clear divide between work and life, blenders would rather blend work and life throughout the day. Although the increase in hybrid work would seem to benefit blenders, employees are split between the two camps.

This presents an obstacle for managers who want both groups to feel satisfied with their work-life balance. Fortunately, managers do not have to choose between forcing blenders to work certain hours or denying splitters the structure they want. Instead, organizations can accommodate both kinds of employees through establishing clear expectations, introducing flexible scheduling and emphasizing open communication.

Set clear expectations

To meet expectations, employees need to understand them. That includes understanding how their job performance will be evaluated by their managers. However, while many businesses historically evaluated employees on punctuality by signing in at 9 a.m. on the dot every day, hybrid work arrangements have challenged this notion. On many teams, employees can work the hours they choose so long as they work 40 hours in a week. On others, managers may allow employees to set a daily schedule but expect more consistent schedules from week to week.

With that in mind, managers should let employees know what constitutes tardiness and how many hours splitters and blenders are expected to work. If employees need to let managers know ahead of time what hours their working hours each week, then official policy should outline the expectation. On the other hand, if employees can work whatever hours they desire so long as they attend required meetings and hit certain hours every week, managers need to let them know. Otherwise, employees may feel frustrated toward one another or take advantage of flexible arrangements.

Allow flexible scheduling

Flexible scheduling is another solution to the splitters versus blenders dilemma. Though flexible scheduling may not work for every single team, the concept allows employees to choose their own hours, so long as they complete their work and attend mandatory meetings. If fully flexible scheduling is not an option, managers can also allow flex time, such that employees who need to fulfill personal obligations after work can sign on an hour early to sign off an hour early.

Flexible scheduling is also highly popular with workers and could boost morale for teams of splitters and blenders who struggle to collaborate as a result of their different orientations toward work-life balance. In fact, McKinsey's 2022 American Opportunity Survey found 87% of workers will work flexible hours when offered the chance.

The most important aspect of successful flexible scheduling is employees who understand how many hours they need to work and buy into the system. For flexible scheduling to work at its best, employees may need to track their hours. This ensures every employee is working the same total hours every week, making the system feel fair to everyone on the team.

Focus on open communication

The last critical element of managing splitters versus blenders is open communication. In the hybrid era, traditional communication strategies may need updating. A June 2021 Gallup survey found only 7% of U.S. workers would strongly agree communication is accurate, timely and open at their workplace. Where managers once regularly interacted with their teams together at the office, that is no longer the case for businesses with hybrid schedules. As a result, managers may need to take more deliberate action to communicate with regular email updates and employee check-ins, as well as transparent and timely responses to employee concerns.

Each group of workers may encounter challenges due to their preferred work-life balance. For instance, a blender may struggle to attend an early morning meeting on time due to family obligations like childcare. On the other hand, a splitter may resent being asked to work outside of typical business hours. In both cases, managers should encourage their employees to communicate their difficulties with work-life balance and offer their support in solving the problem. Workers need to feel comfortable being proactive, even about uncomfortable subjects like work-life balance. If a manager sees an employee consistently struggling to manage their duties with personal obligations, then it could be time to bring up the issue directly. The sooner the problem is acknowledged and addressed, the sooner it will be resolved.

The emergence of splitters and blenders in the workplace presents an obstacle to managers. With clear expectations, flexible scheduling and open communication, management can solve this challenge of the hybrid era.


Jill Chapman is director of early talent programs with Houston-based Insperity, a provider of human resources offering a suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace.

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