Work-life balance refers to that sweet middle ground of being a functioning professional and having a life outside of work. Most of us spend our careers trying to find that balance, but Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says it's debilitating.
Bezos spoke at an awards event hosted by Axel Springer and Business Insider US editor in chief Alyson Shontell when he admitted that, while he's advised new Amazon employees to find their work-life balance, he actually thinks it's rather counterintuitive advice.
“This work-life harmony thing is what I try to teach young employees and actually senior executives at Amazon, too — but especially the people coming in,” he said. “I get asked about work-life balance all the time. And my view is, that’s a debilitating phrase because it implies there’s a strict trade-off.”
Instead of work and life outside of the office being two totally separate parts of our lives, Bezos envisions a more harmonic relationship between the two. In his world, work and life outside of work are reciprocal rather than competing, compartmentalized parts.
“It actually is a circle. It’s not a balance,” Bezos said. “If I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy. And if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy. You never want to be that guy — and we all have a coworker who’s that person — who, as soon as they come into a meeting, they drain all the energy out of the room … You want to come into the office and give everyone a kick in their step.”
It'd be counterintuitive, then, to try to achieve a healthy balance of work and life if there's no recognition of how one affects the other and vice versa.
After all, more than 11 percent of American workers say they work 50 or more hours a week — and many people (33 percent) even find themselves working weekends or holidays, too, according to a Family Living Today and Now Sourcing study. That's why the US only ranks 30th of 38 countries with a "positive work-life balance."
Finding a balance when work seems to take over life can feel like an impossible feat. The key to it all, as Bezos' advice then therefore suggests, is finding that cyclic harmony.
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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report,