As the global boss of a Fortune 500 company, Mr Carl Camden knows a thing or two about achieving a balanced working life.

"When everybody's angry at you, you've achieved work-life balance. You never have enough time to do everything perfectly," jokes Mr Camden, chief executive of recruitment firm Kelly Services.

"When I hear about (CEOs) spending 80 to 100 hours a week in the office, I wonder how long they are able to keep up the pace and to survive.

"So I work very hard to have the type of management team that allows me to make certain I have time to spend with the family and hobbies."

Kelly Services also advises firms worldwide on managing their staff, keeping them happy and promoting work-life balance.

Mr Camden, 58, who is based in the United States, tells The Straits Times during a business trip here that hobbies keep him relaxed; and he certainly has an unusual range. Apart from weekly yoga sessions, he is a sommelier and occasionally marries couples in his guise as an ordained minister.

"I was very poor growing up so I went to college partly on a ministerial scholarship, and one of my degrees is in religion; when you graduate with that you're also a minister," he says. He has officiated at the marriages of about 10 couples at Kelly Services.

Becoming a wine expert was only natural for Mr Camden, who has a wine cellar that can house 2,500 bottles. "I'm friends with lots of master sommeliers, and my wife and one of them conspired and signed me up for the first exam without telling me until a few weeks before it.

"It was an unhappy moment for me since I really hate failing. I had a crash course, studied and barely passed. But it's good, you get to drink your mistakes; that's a fine hobby."

Mr Camden makes use of his many hours travelling to read up to 200 books a year. "When I'm on airplanes, I read a lot because you're just travelling back and forth. I like doing that better than watching movies on a plane."

On his trip from Detroit to Singapore a few months ago, he read "a good three books".

His approach to work is disciplined: "I try to be at the office by seven o'clock in the morning. We have operations around the world, so when I get to the office, I've to react to whatever e-mails I haven't answered on the way to the office.

"Then I try to leave the office at about four o'clock because I'll have to work in the evening when the e-mails from Asia start coming in."

He tries to be home for dinner with his family and works for an hour or two after. His daughter studies in Miami and his son has just graduated from college.

"I also answer e-mails from the family during the day. When I was growing up, everybody talked about there being hard boundaries between work and personal life. But that's not really how it works today, so if my children send an e-mail during the middle of a work day, I'm not going to say, sorry I can't answer you for six hours."

The same goes for a customer who has a problem at 6pm. "There's a permeability between work and life," he says.

Mr Camden believes it is more important to be on the journey, trying to achieve a work-life balance than to think you are going to get there.

With a laugh, he says that the Europeans have got "the whole work-life thing down pat".

"Especially the West Europeans. Somehow they've managed to do so and somewhat by institutionalising it. In some countries it's against the law to work overtime but they sneak around it, I think, because I get e-mails from some of them."

On the other hand, Asia works a whole lot differently. "In big parts of Asia, we've idealised the person who goes to work early and who comes home late and at times, you still have a little bit of the culture of wondering if the person is a good corporate warrior if they leave the office on time.

"I talk to people who will stay in the office even if they don't have something to do because they don't want to be the first to leave."

In the US, most say they believe in work-life balance but they cheat, he adds. He believes "work is something you do, it's not your life".

"It's a significant mistake to not put as much emphasis on the quality of life you are living outside your place of employment.

"I know it's not necessarily the dominant attitude around the world but life's short."

Mr Camden adds: "At the end of the day, very few people are going to remember you, and you're not going to go down in the history books because you were a superb manager at a large global company."

Instead, it is one's values that leave an impact. "Occasionally, rarely, you get to make an impact on society as a part of your work, but usually not, that's why they call it work."