Health and Wellness

Microsoft's CEO does this instead work-life 'balance' — and Jeff Bezos agrees

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Sean Gallup | Getty Images

When Microsoft Japan implemented an experimental four-day workweek in the name of better work-life balance in August, the company saw a noteworthy increase in productivity by nearly 40%.

But interestingly, Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, has a unique approach to his own work-life balance. Instead of separating work and life, Nadella likes to think of it as "work-life harmony."

"I used to always think that you need to find that balance between what's considered relaxing versus what is working," Nadella told the Australian Financial Review (AFR) in November. Now, he's found a way to "re-frame that equation."

"What I'm trying to do is harmonize what I deeply care about, my deep interests, with my work," Nadella said.

Work-life "harmony" is also how Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos likes to look at things.

"I prefer the word 'harmony' to the word 'balance' because balance tends to imply a strict tradeoff," Bezos said in an April 2018 interview with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Dopfner. "It actually is a circle; it's not a balance," he said.

"[I]f I'm happy at work, I'm better at home — a better husband and better father. And if I'm happy at home, I come into work more energized — a better employee and a better colleague," Bezos, who has four children with ex-wife Mackenzie Bezos, told Thrive Global in 2016.

CEO of Jeff Bezos and family attend the premiere of Paramount Pictures' 'Star Trek Beyond' at Embarcadero Marina Park South on July 20, 2016 in San Diego, California.
Todd Williamson | Getty Images

For Nadella, work-life harmony "gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction and energy to go back to work," he told AFR.

Nadella has three children with his wife, Anu, including a son, Zain, 23, who is severely disabled. As a result, Nadella is dedicated to finding ways for technology to help people see and speak. In May 2018, he announced a $25 million Microsoft initiative to develop AI products for people who are disabled.

"I view Microsoft as a platform for me to be able to pursue my own passions," Nadella told AFR. "And that gives me a lot of meaning, and that, to me, is the ultimate form of relaxation."

Having a sense of meaning in your work is a big predictor of your happiness. In a 2019 survey from CNBC/SurveyMonkey, 35% of people said that "meaningfulness" is the No. 1 factor that contributes to their happiness at work.

However, maintaining this harmony is an art form, because even passions can burn people out, Nadella told NowThis in May. "I think the key is to be able to not overdo the connection to the thing that's burning you out, but to somehow keep that flame, which is the core passion you have persist," he said.

At home, Nadella tries to be as present as possible when he spends time with his children. "That is the moment that I want to be present," he said in an interview for the Grace Hopper Celebration in Oct. 2014. "And that is what gives me that harmony to carry on with what is perhaps otherwise a very tough work-life balance."

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