Indeed, life can be seen as a puzzle and making all pieces of one’s life fit together in a harmonious puzzle is more complex than one may think. Individuals may have three ways to build their life puzzle: 1- pieces may be integrated and may overlap, 2-pieces may be separated and divided, or 3- pieces may get integrated and, at the same time, separated. But how is that working?
My research especially my thesis entitled: “Experiencing work/non-work – Theorising individuals’ process of integrating and segmenting work, family, social and private” takes the discussion one step further and focuses on individuals’ work/non-work experiences, calling for a humanistic case.
The humanistic case urges placing individuals’ work/non-work experiences at the centre of human resources and at the centre of the work-life field. The aim of the thesis is to theorise individuals’ work/non-work experiences in their individual, organisational and societal contexts. To achieve the purpose, the thesis presents individuals’ work/non-work self-narratives. These self-narratives of six French middle-managers, three men and three women, underline how individuals experience their diverse life domains, namely the work, the family, the social and the private and their management. The self-narratives have been generated through in-depth qualitative interviews and diaries.
The thesis explores and provides an understanding of individuals’ work/non-work experiences from a boundary perspective. Focusing on the processes behind individuals’ work/non-work experiences, the thesis reveals that work/non-work preferences for integration and/or segmentation are not sufficient to understand individuals’ experiences. It is essential to consider the preferences in relation to their level of explicitness and the development of work/non-work self-identity. Moreover, it is important to understand the roles of positive and negative work/non-work emotions emerging in the work/non-work process as a respective signal of individuals’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction in how their life domains are developed and managed.
The thesis contributes to the work-life field, especially the boundary perspective on work and non-work by presenting a model of individuals’ work/non-work experiences. The model pursued is derived from 33 theoretical propositions. The study suggests a two-dimensional approach for life domain boundaries as a systematic combination of seven boundary types (spatial, temporal, human, cognitive, behavioural, emotional and psychosomatic) and their mental and concrete natures. It suggests a three-dimensional model for work/non-work preferences, revealing five major archetypes of work/non-work preferences between segmentation and integration, and stressing the emotional side of the work/non-work process. It shows that individuals value segmentation on a daily basis and integration on a long-term. This thesis concludes that segmenting and integrating is essential for the harmony of their life domains namely their work, their family, their social and their private.