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CEOs who hate the term “work-life balance” prefer this one instead

You wouldn’t necessarily think that the term “work-life balance” would be controversial.

But while some see it as an important balance to maintain, some CEOs outright hate it or call it a “lie.”

Jeff Bezos says work and life should form a circle, not a ‘balance’

Lauren Sánchez Jeff Bezos F1

Jeff Bezos called the phrase “work-life balance” debilitating.

Clive Mason – Formula 1

In 2018, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said workers should aim for work-life harmony, not “balance,” at an event hosted by Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer. Bezos also called the concept of work-life balance “debilitating” because it suggests there is a trade-off.

Bezos said it’s not about work-life balance, but “it’s actually a circle.”

Bezos said that if he feels happy at home, it gives him energy and makes him more productive at work, and vice versa.

Satya Nadella thinks we need to focus on “work-life harmony”

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella believes people should strive to achieve “harmony” between their work and home lives.

Associated Press

The Microsoft CEO also believes that “work-life balance” is not the goal. Instead, he says to focus on “harmony” between work and life. In 2019, he shared his thoughts with the Australian Financial Review, saying he believed he needed to balance relaxation with work. But since then, he has changed his approach, aligning his “deep interests” with his work.

TIAA CEO thinks whole concept is a ‘lie’

Thasunda Brown Duckett, TIAA President and CEO

TIAA CEO says work-life balance is a ‘lie’

Paras Griffin/Getty Images

“Work-life balance is a lie,” TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett told Fortune CEO Alan Murray in 2023. Brown Duckett previously said she used to struggle with guilt and balancing her demanding job with her role as a mother.

Brown Duckett says she views her life as a “portfolio” and takes time to play different roles such as mother, wife and business executive. Although she’s not always physically with her children, she says she strives to be fully present during the time she can spend with them.

Arianna Huffington says you shouldn’t have to choose between work and life

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington prefers “work-life integration.”

Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global and HuffPost, told Great Place to Work that we shouldn’t view productivity and relaxation as two opposing forces. Huffington said that when one area of ​​your life improves, the other also improves.

According to a 2019 Oxford University study, happy employees are 13% more productive than those who are not. Huffington told Great Place to Work that employees should focus more on “work-life integration” since “we bring our whole selves to work.”

Still, Huffington believes that your personal life should always come first.

“While work is obviously important and can give us purpose and meaning in our lives, it should not replace life,” she told Great Place to Work. “Work is part of a fulfilling life, but life must come first.”

Don’t expect work-life balance if you work for Elon Musk…

Elon Musk, wearing a black suit and tie and flanked by a police officer and bodyguard, leaves after a meeting at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, September 13, 2023 .

Elon Musk is famous for demanding grueling work hours and personally sleeping at night on the job.


Elon Musk is a known workaholic, and he expects those who work under him to be too.

In 2022, just after Musk took ownership of X, formerly Twitter, he sent an email to employees telling them to dedicate their lives to work or leave the company. Musk reportedly made X employees work 84 hours a week. While some people believe that remote work improves their work-life balance, Musk has often criticized it and called it “morally wrong.”

According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Musk, Musk had an even tighter work schedule. The billionaire was spending nights at the office and showering at the YMCA when he joined the workforce in 1995, Isaacson wrote. Musk continued this habit while working at Tesla and buying Twitter, often staying overnight at work.

In 2018, Musk said he worked 120 hours a week, or 17 hours a day.

Jack Ma also actively supported long working hours

Jack Mom.

Jack Ma supports the “996” work culture popular in many workplaces in China.

Firdia Lisnawati/AP

One of China’s richest men, Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, in 2019 expressed support for the controversial “996” work system in many Chinese workplaces, which refers to the 9-hour shift to 9 p.m., six days a week. He considers the “996” culture a “huge blessing” for young workers.

“Many companies and many people do not have the opportunity to work in 996,” he said in 2019. “If you don’t work in 996 when you are young, when will you ever be able to work in 996?”

“If you find a job you like, the 996 problem doesn’t exist,” he added. “If you’re not passionate about it, every minute spent at work is torment.”

The Chinese government has called the grueling 996 program “illegal” in 2021, although many Chinese companies are believed to still expect it.


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