Jeff Bezos says his advice to Amazon interns and execs is to stop aiming for work-life 'balance' — here's what you should strive for instead

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images.

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he believes the term “work-life balance” is a “debilitating phrase.”
  • Bezos revealed that one of the top pieces of advice he offers new Amazon employees is that they shouldn’t view the two as a strict trade-off.
  • Instead, Bezos thinks of his personal and professional pursuits as a “circle” rather than a balancing act.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos isn’t a fan of the phrase “work-life balance.”

At a recent awards event hosted by Axel Springer and Business Insider US editor in chief Alyson Shontell, Bezos revealed the counterintuitive advice he offers new Amazon employees.

Bezos believes that his new hires should stop attempting to achieve “balance” within their professional and personal lives, since that implies a strict trade-off between the two. Instead, Bezos envisions a more holistic relationship between work and life outside the office.

Historically, the world’s richest man has a nontraditional approach to work: He makes time for breakfast every morning with his family, doesn’t set his alarm before going to bed, schedules surprisingly few meetings, and still sets aside a few minutes every day to wash his own dishes.

This counterintuitive approach to maintaining a healthy symmetry within his professional and personal pursuits is one of the chief pieces of advice Bezos offers his staff.

“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 viewing work and life as a balancing act, Bezos said that it’s more productive to view them as two integrated parts.

“It actually is a circle. It’s not a balance,” Bezos said.

Bezos said that the relationship between his work life and personal life is reciprocal, and that he doesn’t compartmentalize them into two competing time constraints.

“If I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy,” said Bezos. “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.”

You can read — and watch — the full interview with Bezos right here.

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