Managing Work-Life Boundaries in a Hybrid World for Well-Being

February 5, 2024
Ellen Ernst Kossek

Ellen Ernst Kossek

As the boundaries between work, school and life have become increasingly blurred in our daily interactions, there is a growing demand on each of us to manage these more effectively. I have developed a work-life assessment called Flexstyles that has been validated with a research team in a 2012 referred journal publication in the Journal of Vocational Behavior and other publications listed at the end of this blog over the past decade.

Flexstyles are the approaches people use to demarcate their work or school and non-work lives,to align with your multiple identities (e.g., career, family, gender, race) and boundary control contexts. Boundary control is the degree to which you can control the boundaries between your professional and personal roles and is correlated with well-being, work-life fit, job satisfaction and emotional exhaustion.

Here are some insights that may help you with managing your personal and professional boundaries in the digital age.

  • Self-assess how you are currently managing the boundaries physically, mentally and emotionally between your work and professional roles. Are you an integrator switching back and forth between personal communications and those from work or school throughout the day? Or are you a separator who strives to keep work and non-work roles separate, checking personal communications and texts when not at work or school? Or perhaps you have a style that varies during the week or season-a cycler? Here is a link you can use to identify your flexstyle. The assessment will help you understand how you are currently managing cross-role communications.
  • Reflect on how well you feel your career and personal identities are aligned. Are you giving the most time, energy and emotions to those roles that are most meaningful to your identity?
  • Consider to what extent you have control over the time and degree to which you are attending to work, home or school. Studies show that people with higher boundary
    control have higher well-being. They also have lower switching costs, which are process losses in flow from switching back and forth.
  • Is your current flexstyle supporting positive relationships with your friends, family, supervisors or professors? Does your style fit well with those whom you interact with regularly at work and home? Here are some tips that you can draw on once you analyze your current flexstyle work-life boundary management approach:

Tip #1: Take steps to increase boundary control between personal and professional roles, which often involves physical and mental separation. For example, if you are working at home on an academic or work commitment, work in a quiet space with a door closed, which signals to you and those you live with that you are focusing on professional roles. Turn off social media notifications when you are trying to work on
a school or job task.

Tip #2: Use separate technology and personal electronic devices for work and non-work communications. Perhaps only use a laptop for work and school communications and a smartphone or tablet for personal communications and leisure. This helps you to only look at social media such as Facebook, Tik-Tok or Instagram when you are relaxing.

Tip #3: Make a current and desired life pie diagram and develop a future goal for how you would most like to allocate time across roles. Did you know there are 168 hours in a week? Make a list of how you are currently spending your time eating, sleeping, commuting, exercising, working, being online and other tasks. Then make a list of how you would ideally like to spend your time and allocate your attention and energy in ways that are the most meaningful to you. Compare your current and desired life pies. If they are vastly different, identify one or more actions you can take to adapt your current life pie to one that reflects how you would prefer to spend your time.

Tip # 4: Turn off your smartphone or tablet before you go to bed so you aren’t tempted to keep checking communications and social media all night. Having a good night's sleep is strongly related to health and well-being.

Ellen Ernst Kossek is the Basil S. Turner Distinguished Professor in the Mitchell E. Daniels School of Business at Purdue University. She received her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from Yale University, Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Michigan and her Bachelor of Arts with honors in Psychology from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Before becoming a professor, she worked in human resources and business in the U.S., Europe and Asia for major corporations. Kossek teaches classes on leading diversity and managing organizations and people across cultures, at the 500 level which are open to graduate and advanced undergraduate students. Her research has won many national and international awards. She is a fellow in the Academy of Management, the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and the American Psychological Association. Her research focused on flexibility, 3 remote and hybrid work; leadership and organizational support of well-being and work and family policies; and employment strategies for gender and diversity work-life equality. Kossek regularly conducts leadership development on flexstyles in leading management of diversity and inclusion and has been asked to speak on work-life boundaries in many countries around the globe. She also partners with organizations on research to use training and self-assessments as a form of workplace intervention to improve health and well-being and implement telework. She has conducted research for over a decade on flexstyles, which has been published in many outlets including the Journal of Applied Psychology, Organizational Psychology Review, National Academies of Sciences, the Journal of Vocational Behavior, Organizational Dynamics, Community Work and Family, a telework study, the Journal of Management, a book chapter in an edited book on positive organizing in a global society for inclusion and a book published by Wharton School Publishing entitled, “CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age.” The references are listed below and also can be found on her personal website,


 Kossek, E. & Lautsch, B. 2008. CEO of Me: Creating a Life That Works in the Flexible Job Age. Philadelphia: Wharton School Publishing, (Affiliated withPearson, Prentice Hall), ISBN 9780132349994

Kossek, E. 2016. Implementing organizational work-life interventions: Toward a triple bottom line. Community Work and Family, 19: 2, 242–256, 10.1080/13668803.2016.1135540

Kossek, E. 2016. Organizational support and empowerment of diversity in work-life identities. In Roberts, L., Wooten, L., Davidson, M. (Eds.) Positive organizing in a global society: Understanding and engaging differences for capacity building and inclusion (pp.176-184). NY: Taylor & Francis

Kossek, E. E. (2016). Managing work–life boundaries in the digital age. Organizational Dynamics, 45(3), 258–270.

Kossek, E. E., & Lautsch, B. A. (2012). Work–family boundary management styles in organizations: A cross-level model. Organizational Psychology Review, 2(2), 152–171.

Kossek, E. E., Dumas, T. L., Piszczek, M. M., & Allen, T. D. (2021). Pushing the boundaries: A qualitative study of how stem women adapted to disrupted work–nonwork boundaries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(11), 1615–1629.

Kossek, E. E., Lautsch, B. A., & Eaton, S. C. (2006). Telecommuting, control, and boundary management: Correlates of policy use and practice, job control, and work-family effectiveness. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68(2), 347–367.

Kossek, E. E., Lautsch, B. A., & Eaton, S. C. (2006). Telecommuting, control, and boundary management: Correlates of policy use and practice, job control, and work-family effectiveness. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68(2), 347–367.

Kossek, E. E., Perrigino, M. B., & Lautsch, B. A. (2023). Work-Life Flexibility Policies From a Boundary Control and Implementation Perspective: A Review and Research Framework. Journal of Management, 49(6), 2062–2108.

Kossek, E.E., T. Allen, and T. L. Dumas. 2021. Boundaryless work: The impact of COVID-19 on work-life boundary management, integration, and gendered divisions of labor for academic women in STEMM. Paper commissioned by the Committee on the Impacts of COVID-19 on the Careers of Women in Academic Science, Engineering, and Medicine. U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Wash. D.C..