How can the CEO better balance work and life?

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The CEO or leader has plenty of demands on their time – but it’s important to thrive outside the office too


The job of the chief executive officer is all-consuming. From employee to shareholder, everyone wants a piece of your time. With overall responsibility for the company, nothing is off-limits when it comes to division of labour and, for smaller or startup companies, even the changing of a lightbulb might fall to the CEO. Then there’s the little matter of goals for the following quarter, and the strategy to support them. And that’s before you’ve even started to think about things outside the office. So how do you balance a full-time job with a full-time life?

For Jeff Bezos, it all comes down to empowerment – of himself and others. And as the second-largest employer in the US, the CEO of Amazon must be doing something right. His annual shareholder letters, which have been eagerly awaited since being made public in 1998, are a good place to start. In 2013, for example, he advocated time-management strategies to “decentralize decision-making to generate innovation”; and in 2018 he told The Wall Street Journal that focussing on “a small number of high-quality decisions” and getting a decent night’s sleep made all the difference. “I think better, I have more energy, my mood’s better,” he told the newspaper.

In 2002, his main point was to “build your business on your fixed costs”, which makes a lot of sense when it comes to expenditure and forecasting. This is where a flexible working policy can help, since it opens the gates to site a business in a coworking or flexwork environment where costs are upfront – and adaptable to changing needs (not using that spare desk? Just cut it from the budget). In 1999, the Amazon founder advised to “build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own” – and it’s not hard to see how flexspace can help here too. These days, the millennial generation – the biggest demographic in the global workforce – see a pleasant working environment as a right as well as an attractive proposition, and office-providers like Regus can provide that. As team morale-boosters go, it’s a quick win.

Perhaps the most prescient piece of advice came in 2011, when Bezos declared that “Self-service platforms unlock innovation”. Again, this statement can easily be applied to flexspace, which has unlocked a whole new way of working that naturally supports a work and life balance – for the CEO and the employee. Like he wrote, “even well-meaning gatekeepers slow innovation”, whereas: “When a platform is self-service, even the improbably ideas can get tried.”

So what can we take away from this snapshot of the Bezos worldview? Well, it sounds like today’s successful leader needs to understand how and where people want to work, and that anything contributing to workplace wellness sets the right tone for employee performance and productivity. In the end, it all has a trickle-down (or should that be trickle-up?) effect on the CEO work/life balance.


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