4 Types of Work-Life Balance

Last month, we talked a lot about motivation: What type of motivators there are, how companies can keep employees engaged, and what works best for you. We quickly realized understanding motivators is only part of the equation when it comes to finding a company that fits your individual values. Another important aspect that determines whether […]

Work-Life, Hardly

Last month, we talked a lot about motivation: What type of motivators there are, how companies can keep employees engaged, and what works best for you. We quickly realized understanding motivators is only part of the equation when it comes to finding a company that fits your individual values. Another important aspect that determines whether or not you’ve found your match is your definition of work-life balance. In other words, do you like your work and personal life to bleed together or be kept separate? Lastly, there is the matter of organizational culture. Do you lean towards an individualistic model of management or a collective one? These three aspects combined make up one’s work-life values. 


Recently, Hardly’s consumer insights have pointed towards four different work-life value profiles. Based on consumer research, we found many people fall into one of the following categories with slight variations based on where they are in their career trajectory:

The Discoverer or Trailblazer

Work-Life, Hardly

If your work is also your passion, you are probably in this category. Discoverers and Trailblazers think outside the box and want to be on the cutting edge of their field. They find themselves motivated at work simply because of internal desires. They love the challenge without a need for additional rewards. Therefore, they allow their work to permeate throughout their lives. While everyone needs money to live, these curious employees are more concerned with whether their work is engaging and purposeful. 


Visually, their work-life balance is like a swirl with work and play mixed together. You might find discoverers and trailblazers talking about work with their friends over dinner or reading articles on the topic just for fun. As one survey participant described, work-life balance is “being self-employed, having a daily blend of life and project work.” Others might burn out from a lack of delineation, but members of this group are energized by this style of work. 


Discoverers and Trailblazers fit best with a company culture that values adaptability and agility over rules and tradition. Given the freedom to try new things, they love to be a force of change for the greater good. They prefer to be given more freedom and flexibility to make changes as they see fit.  When their boss offers them the opportunity to do things differently, they thrive. 


This work-life style’s favorite perk is flexible dress codes, business travel, and employee outings so they can continue to blend work and play.


So what’s the difference? Discoverers are still novices. They like to try new things but aren’t necessarily leading the pack with their new ideas. Trailblazers are a bit more seasoned and are innovating at a higher level and willing to take more risks to make their vision a reality.

The Apprentice or Captain

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This group holds the most “traditional” work-life values. Apprentices and Captains are happy to pay their dues in the beginning and earn the benefits that come with being at the top. Their motto is “work hard, play hard.” They separate their personal life from their professional one, believing turning their passion into a paycheck would ruin it.  Apprentices and Captains believe structure and clear expectations are required to be productive. They value efficiency and are more inclined to push themselves when stimulated by external benefits, rewards, praise, and above all, respect. Having their hard work acknowledged by other people and/or in exchange for something quantifiable sustains their engagement. 


They value giving their all to their job when they are present. Then, checking out completely when it’s time to enjoy friends, family, and hobbies. As one participant stated, work-life balance is when “work stays as work, and my time off is respected.” 


Apprentices and Captains fit best with a company culture that respects level of rank and responsibility. They value a chain of command and specific processes.  Apprentices and Captains prefer organizational cultures that care less about face time or hours online and more about accomplishing tasks. In addition, praise from the boss goes a long way. The best perks to entice this group are early Fridays, milestone gifts, and performance bonuses. 


The difference between the two is that Apprentices are still at the bottom of the totem pole but are eager to climb the corporate ladder. Captains have already worked their way up and are role models for those they manage. To the Apprentice, a Captain’s success represents a promise that hard work pays off in the long run.

The Collaborator or Mentor

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Collaborators and Mentors are a bit more nuanced. They are motivated by outside forces, but they don’t mind if their personal and professional lives become intertwined. A survey participant nailed this idea when saying, “[work life balance is…] enough sleep, eating healthy, time to workout/hobbies, but paid enough.” Their balance comes from their sense of duty to others and being able to complete personal tasks throughout the day alongside work.


Collaborators and Mentors don’t mind answering emails on the weekends or entertaining clients in the evening. But, their high level of productivity is dependent on others acknowledging  their accomplishments. In addition, they like to pursue goals as a team rather than individually. Their motto is usually “we win together, and lose together!”


Collaborators and Mentors match well with a company culture that functions like a large family or tribe. They love to be surrounded by like-minds and want to make sure there is consensus among colleagues before moving forward with new ideas. Believing each person is a valuable member of the team, they don’t want to feel like they are competing against their coworkers. They flourish at a company where getting to know one another holistically is encouraged and rewards are intertwined with collaboration and socializing outside of work. Their favorite perks are wellness programs, free social outings after work (hello, trivia night), and employee discounts on everything from gym memberships to meals.


Earlier in their career, Collaborators work well with those at the same level as them. On the other hand, Mentors are more focused on facilitating interdisciplinary work across the company. They lead their teams while fostering open dialogue amongst employees of all ranks. Many times, Mentors are protective of their younger Collaborators and invest a lot of time in nurturing their growth.

The Striver or Challenger

Work-Life, Hardly

Strivers and Challengers are highly motivated by internal feelings of autonomy, mastery, and connection to their projects. However, they still value separation of church and state (metaphorically). Feelings of accomplishment and purpose at work drive intrinsic separators, and they like to detach from work and experience these same feelings from friends, family, and hobbies. 

Their work provides a great amount of fulfillment in their lives, but it is not everything. They are at their best when they can compartmentalize the two as they see fit. As one participant stated, “my ideal work-life balance would be the ability to have a complete disconnect between work and personal life. I’m fine with talking shop outside office hours with other folks, but I want to be able to control when and where.” Strivers and Challengers are most productive when they are able to dive deeper into their specific interests and have a designated workspace to concentrate.


People in this camp fit best with companies that foster a bit of competition. Strivers and Challengers are very self-motivated and prefer to work for organizations that focus on achievement at an individual level. They typically have tunnel vision when working on a project and hold themselves to a high standard. In addition, they want to work for companies that stress individual accountability and self-promotion. They appreciate it when their boss offers them a challenging assignment and respects their free time. This work-life value profile’s favorite perks are professional development stipends, unlimited vacation time, and stock options.  They also value companies that promote employees based on individual performance. 


While both prefer working solo, Strivers are still trying to prove their individual value to a company whereas Challengers have most likely either reached the top where they get to call the shots or have gone out on their own. For example, Challengers make excellent solo-consultants, writers, artists, etc. Basically, the more they can tie their own work to their success, the better. Both tend to be successful at entrepreneurial endeavors due to their ambition and intrinsic motivation.


These four work-life value profiles are trending but are not yet set in stone. We would love your input to get a better idea of what other buckets exist and which work-life values are most popular. Click here to check out our app and take the survey to find out which work-life value you’re most aligned with. We look forward to incorporating your answers!

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