Phil Libin, Marc Benioff and Om Malik
Phil Libin, Marc Benioff and Om Malik at the Evernote conference in San Francisco today.

SAN FRANCISCO – If there’s one truism about Silicon Valley, it’s that work-life balance is hard to come by. At least at two Valley-based startups, that’s by design. Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff sat down with Evernote CEO Phil Libin and GigaOM founder Om Malik at the Evernote Conference today to talk about their philosophy of doing work in the tech industry. When Malik asked Libin and Benioff how Salesforce and Evernote deal with issues of work-life balance, especially in a day and age when it’s possible for employees to be connected to the office 24 hours a day, their responses seemed to indicate a question: what work-life balance?

The message from Libin and Benioff was clear: don’t bother applying to their companies if you want to have a straightforward 9-to-5 job.

“I want the ability to work and play as a team, and I want people on my team who are committed to that,” Benioff said.

When Malik turned the question to Libin, he was similarly dismissive, saying that people who wanted a job that supported an activity they do outside of work were free to find a job at another company in the Bay Area. According to Libin, people at Evernote join the company because they’re looking for an engaging (and time-consuming) challenge. That mentality, as it turns out, starts at the top.

“Forget about work-life balance, I don’t have balance-balance,” Libin said, going on to say that he thought his clumsiness was often a source of entertainment for his employees.

Of course, not having work-life balance at either company may not be the worst thing in the world. Both Libin and Benioff waxed poetic on helping employees find work that they find fulfilling, both saying that they wanted the people who worked at their companies to be passionate about what they do.

They’re not against taking breaks either, with Libin saying that he plans to devote a sizeable chunk of his time next week to playing the next installment in the “Grand Theft Auto” series.

Previously on GeekWire: Evernote strengthens ties to physical products with new notebooks, Post-its, scanner

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Kevin McCarthy

    I would hardly call SalesForce a startup…they’re a 30 billion dollar company.

  • Harkonnen

    Well, I’m sure these CEO’s get all the balance that they want just none for their minions. The smugness of their comments is amazing.

  • Christopher Budd

    Sadly this just goes a long way towards showing that the industry STILL hasn’t gotten it regarding work/life balance and staffing.

    Taking this kind of view limits the pool of possible candidates in a way that’s bad for the companies. It also skews the pool to be younger, male, and single.

    A lack of diversity in your staff is a dangerous thing: it can create a disconnected echo chamber where you create and market products essentially to yourselves leaving the door open to others to reach customers you’ve locked yourself out of.

    A lack of grey hairs (i.e. older workers) also means that these companies are well placed to repeat mistakes others have made in the past. That’s a huge problem in the industry too. I saw it at Microsoft enough to say that any mistake worth making is worth making three times because I really have seen that happen.

    As @Harkonnen5:disqus remarks, I wonder how much these CEOs hold themselves to the same standard? Even if they do, it’s one thing to work like a dog and make the kind of money they do, entirely another to work like that for what entry level devs make at their companies. It’s much better than the average American makes, by a long shot. But I doubt its worth giving up your entire life outside of work for years.

    • Slaggggg

      They don’t seem to be having problems recruiting people. Seems to me you and Harkonnen should go form a big and successful company of your own, and then you can have whatever policy on work life balance you want. Go for it, let us know when you are ready!
      Oh yeah you might not do that because of your focus on work/life balance.

  • ClaudiaPutnam

    Nice to see these guys adding to healthcare costs with their general state of fitness and good health.

Job Listings on GeekWork