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Author's profile photo Susan Galer

Arianna Huffington Debunks Burnout; Makes Wellness Badge of Honor

AriannaMorgankeynoescnsmall.jpgBuilding a healthy, vibrant workforce for the future is a bottom line imperative for HR professionals and their organizations. This was the central message that Arianna Huffington shared with a rapt HR audience at the largest ever SuccessConnect 2016 in Las Vegas last week.

Talking with Jennifer Morgan, President of SAP North America, Huffington envisioned a world in which being swamped wasn’t a badge of honor, and success wasn’t reduced to just two metrics − money and power. I’ve captured a few of Huffington’s thoughts on why health and wellness is good for business.

“The people in this room can really help accelerate and change the way we treat health and wellness in the business world. The key is to take it out of the soft benefits department, and put in the department that is clearly affecting the bottom line,” she said. “When we prioritize the health and well-being of employees it improves productivity, reduces healthcare costs, increases retention, and improves recruitment, especially with millennials. We’re living in culture that still believes that burn-out is the way to succeed. But we’re not paying people for their stamina. We’re paying them for their judgment.”

Personal wake-up call

The acclaimed author, entrepreneur and passionate advocate for diversity who co-founded The Huffington Group recently launched Thrive Global, a startup focused on helping businesses boost productivity. Huffington described the venture in the context of her own journey. Her point was that companies also need to recognize the three pillars of well-being: nutrition, exercise and sleep.

“I had a personal wake-up call when I collapsed from exhaustion and burn-out,” she said. “I realized that the way I was living was based on a false assumption that that was the only way to succeed. I wrote a book that resonated with millions worldwide, then I wrote a book about the sleep revolution. Working on my books, I realized we haven’t changed the way we work and live. How do we move people to actually take action by incentivizing behavior change? That’s why I founded Thrive Global to help companies accelerate this sustainable change.”

Leaders can reset boundaries

Huffington sees workforce transformation driven by top down myth-busting. “Suddenly more and more CEOs are coming out to say ‘I get 8 hours sleep. And if my decisions are five percent better because I’m operating on all cylinders, that’s better for the bottom line and the company.’ This is a whole new mantra around leadership,” she said.

As machines become more embedded in our lives, it’s up to us to make it work to our advantage. Huffington advised the crowd that “white space to think is critical for innovation. Turn your smartphone into a dumb phone. We are all becoming a little addicted to technology, and while it’s been amazing, we need to reset boundaries and reassert our mastery of technology.”

Business impact of diversity

Huffington agreed that gender diversity impacts an organization’s bottom line, driving fundamental, important changes. “We’re living in a time of change that’s accelerating so fast, and we need multiple viewpoints to address problems. There isn’t just one group of people that has all the answers. The more we can open up the conversations and be a team of people from different backgrounds, the more successful the company will be.”

Noting unconscious biases in the workplace, Huffington said technology can change processes like employee recruiting for the better. “Studies show words mean different things to women and men. There’s bias in the language. Simply challenging the use of the words can open up a dialogue about they’re used differently for women vs. men.”

Huffington closed the discussion with a nod towards SAP SuccessFactors. “What you are doing is needed to help simplify the clutter, noise and distractions in our lives that make it so much harder for us to perform at our best.”

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