17 Work-Life Balance Quotes and Tips From CEOs

Work-life balance remains elusive for many in a world of nonstop virtual, social and professional demand. Yet as the work-life balance quotes below — gathered from commencement speeches and other public sound bites — show, that shouldn’t prevent you from trying to relieve the strain caused by competing job and home priorities.

Even if you haven’t found one of the best work-life balance jobs for maximum flexibility, you can still improve your balance ratio with these tips and strategies from world leaders. Many current and former CEOs have figured out how to achieve success — so it’s smart to emulate how they manage their juggling acts.

[See: The Best Jobs in America in 2024]

Mary Barra

General Motors CEO Mary Barra told the Wall Street Journal that planning business lunches instead of dinners and taking other steps to prioritize family commitments are essential for work-life balance:

“I’ll say, ‘The meeting starts at 4:30 and this is going to end at 5:30 because I’m making my child’s sporting event.’ Everyone then says, ‘OK, let’s be efficient. Let’s get this done.'”

Jeff Bezos

In the Venn diagram of life, former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos suggests considering work and personal time as one big overlapping circle rather than two parts that sometimes intersect.

“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 in an interview with Mathias Döpfner, CEO of global media company Axel Springer. “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.”

Michele Buck

One of Hershey CEO Michele Buck’s many accolades was receiving the Corporate Citizenship Award from the Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board in 2018. In accepting the award, she credited not only her colleagues but also her family for helping her stay grounded:

“My family … makes all of this possible,” Buck said. “It is my role as mother to three amazing children that enhances my ability to lead a company with thoughtfulness, ingenuity and compassion.”

Brian Dyson

In a 1991 commencement speech at Georgia Institute of Technology, Brian Dyson, former Coca-Cola CEO, described striving for work-life balance in terms of juggling glass and rubber balls: “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air,” Dyson said. “You name them — work, family, health, friends and spirit — and you’re keeping all of these in the air.”

Dyson added that it soon becomes clear that work is a rubber ball. “If you drop it, it will bounce back,” he said. “But the other four balls — family, health, friends and spirit — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”

Cathy Engelbert

As the first female CEO of one of the Big Four financial services firms, Cathy Engelbert has been asked many times about work-life balance. Time described the former Deloitte chief executive, who retired from the role in June 2019, as having a “black belt in scheduling,” facilitated by what Engelbert herself called “personal selfishness” to help make all the pieces fit together — for herself as well as her clients.

The Time article explained how when the tenacious CEO was pregnant, she requested to work with a major client based 2 miles from her house after being assigned to one that would have involved traveling much farther.

[SEE: Best Jobs That Allow You to Travel.]

Sallie Krawcheck

In a 2019 post on her company’s website, Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck declared that she is “over the work-life balance question.”

Krawcheck, who launched the women-focused investment platform in 2016, discussed why she doesn’t focus on achieving balance anymore, including the fact that she recognizes it’s “a question that so many women don’t get to ask themselves as they work three shifts to keep their families above water.” She concluded: “And I’m over it because it’s impossible to maintain, anyway, for more than six minutes.”

Marissa Mayer

The last Yahoo CEO before Verizon’s acquisition of the tech company was Marissa Mayer, who wrote for Bloomberg about her strategy for balancing professional responsibilities with personal needs:

“Avoiding burnout isn’t about getting three square meals or eight hours of sleep. It’s not even necessarily about getting time at home,” Mayer wrote. “I have a theory that burnout is about resentment. And you beat it by knowing what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful. I tell people: Find your rhythm. Your rhythm is what matters to you so much that, when you miss it, you’re resentful of your work.”

Elon Musk

In a company memo, Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained his belief that work-life balance isn’t always achievable in competitive industries.

“There are many companies that can offer a better work-life balance because they are larger and more mature or in industries that are not so voraciously competitive,” Musk wrote. “Attempting to build affordable clean energy products at scale necessarily requires extreme effort and relentless creativity, but succeeding in our mission is essential to ensure that the future is good, so we must do everything we can to advance the cause.”

Satya Nadella

The chief executive of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, opts for quality over quantity in his work-life equation. According to GeekWire, Nadella told a crowd at an industry conference that he focuses less on how much time he spends with his kids at home, and more on how strong his relationship is with them:

“The moments that I’m there with my children … that is the moment that I want to be present,” Nadella said. “And that is what gives me that harmony to carry on with what is perhaps otherwise a very tough work-life balance.”

Indra Nooyi

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2014, former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi discussed the work-life balance challenges women face:

“The biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other. Total, complete conflict,” Nooyi said. “When you have to have kids, you have to build your career. Just as you’re rising to middle management, your kids need you because they’re teenagers.”

Chris O’Neill

When profiled about his work-life balance strategies in the New York Times, former Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill emphasized running, daily lists and gardening among the ways he keeps all his plates spinning. He said he also reserves Saturdays for his kids:

“The truth is that it’s not easy balancing work with family,” O’Neill said. “I travel a bunch. I don’t get home in time for dinner on a regular basis. Saturday is the closest thing to sacrosanct.”

Ginni Rometty

Former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty prioritizes health and fitness to help with balance and focus. “I make time to exercise,” Rometty told the New York Times. “It’s not being indulgent.”

She added: “I think it’s got a lot to do with your ability to manage properly and stay focused. There’s no doubt about that.”

[See: The 15 Best Jobs That Help People]

Brad Smith

In a Time article about how CEO dads balance fatherhood and work, Brad Smith, former CEO of Intuit, said there are “rubber” and “crystal” moments in family life — meaning you can miss some events and still bounce back, such as a single school play or soccer game, but others will shatter you if you skip them (once-in-a-lifetime events like graduations).

Smith told Time: “Do not ever drop a crystal moment.”

Mark Schneider

When it comes to how he approaches balancing professional demands with personal ones, Nestle CEO Mark Schneider told the Wall Street Journal, “The job comes first.”

Schneider added: “When you have the CEO talk about his own work-life balance, it may be time to sell the stock.”

Howard Schultz

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz noted in his book “Onward” that when you love your work, it often requires sacrifice in other areas, but the results can be worth the imbalance:

“Entrepreneurs must love what they do to such a degree that doing it is worth sacrifice and, at times, pain. But doing anything else, we think, would be unimaginable,” Schultz said.

Jeff Weiner

Former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, who is now executive chairman, leverages compassion for better balance. In a 2018 graduation speech at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Weiner said he strikes work-life balance by “looking forward” to both going to work and coming home:

“The only way I can do this is by practicing compassion in both facets of my life and not taking anything or anyone for granted,” Weiner said.

Mark Zuckerberg

How you measure work-life balance depends on whether you’re counting only time spent in the office or time spent thinking about professional goals, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a public Q&A session covered by the Mercury News:

“If you count the time I’m in the office, it’s probably no more than 50 to 60 hours a week,” Zuckerberg said. “But if you count all the time I’m focused on our mission, that’s basically my whole life.”

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17 Work-Life Balance Quotes and Tips From CEOs originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 06/28/24: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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