An interview with Arianna Huffington: “Taking stress seriously is something all leaders should do”
Arianna Huffington is the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, co-founder of The Huffington Post, a renowned author with 15 books including Thrive and The Sleep Revolution, and is an advisor to Walking on Earth. After her collapse from sleep deprivation and exhaustion in 2007 whilst running The Huffington Post, Arianna became more and more passionate about the connection between well-being and work. In August 2016 she stepped down from The Huffington Post after 11 years to focus on her new business, Thrive Global, to transform the way we work and live, challenging the misconception that burnout is inevitable for success.
In our whitepaper, 'Managing Stress: Your Hidden Advantage', we highlight perspectives from three prominent experts in the field of workplace stress, including Arianna. In our interview, Arianna shared her approach to marrying performance and wellbeing at her company, Thrive Global. Dive into the complete interview with Arianna below, and download the whitepaper at: https://resources.walkingonearth.com/stress-whitepaper
What do you think is the determining factor in turning stress into performance?
The key is building in time for recovery. That’s now become standard practice for elite athletes, and the science on recovery and performance is no less true for the rest of us.
Can you pinpoint a common misconception about workplace stress that might be hindering our progress in tackling this crisis?
Unfortunately, the idea that stress and burnout are simply the price we have to pay for success is a myth that’s still hanging on. It’s a model of work that dates back to the Industrial Revolution, in which all time not spent working was considered unproductive. Decades of science has disproven that, showing how essential well-being, downtime and recovery are to peak performance. But we still haven’t truly incorporated that science into our actual work experience. So what we now need to do is move from awareness to action.
What is your plea to business leaders on the topic of adopting stress solutions in their workplace?
Solutions for stress that improve employee well-being shouldn’t be seen as a warm and fuzzy perk, or a nice-to-have, but as an essential strategy for increasing productivity. Those solutions need to be embedded into the workflow itself. That’s the basis for why Thrive is integrated with collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack and contact center software like Genesys, NICE, Intradiem and Webex, to meet people where they are with stress reducing tools in real-time.
Can you tell us about your experience regulating your stress levels?
I haven’t always been good at it. In 2007, while running The Huffington Post, I collapsed from stress, burnout, and lack of sleep, breaking my cheekbone on my desk as I fell. After that I became more and more passionate about the science on the connection between stress, well-being and productivity. That led me to write my two books, Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. And as I went around the world speaking about them, and the issues of stress and burnout and sleep deprivation, I saw how deeply people want to change their lives. And that’s what led me to found Thrive.
Having founded a company based on the science of regulating stress, I’m much more conscious in my own life about interrupting stress before it becomes cumulative. If I’m feeling stressed throughout the day I play a Thrive Reset. I’m also much more deliberate about building in time to unplug and recharge.
How has your experience around managing your stress shaped you to rebuild your habits and enable you to become a global thought leader & to build a billion dollar business?
Taking stress seriously is something all leaders should do. Too many leaders still buy into the misguided notion that urgent or chaotic times require them to be in constant motion and always on, or that they somehow have to match the frenetic pace of the moment, especially in those early stages of growth. But the best way to lead a company is to prioritize your own well-being. This leads to better decisions and gives employees permission to do the same in their own lives as well.
What do you say to people who don’t think we need to prioritize solving this problem? What’s the most compelling argument or data point you have to convince a doubter?
The science is incredibly clear on the connection between productivity and well-being. It’s not an either/or situation. The most compelling argument to those who believe they don’t need to think about employee stress and burnout is that some or all of their competitors are going to be taking the issue seriously. The reason for taking stress and burnout among your employees seriously isn’t just because it’s a nice thing to do (and it is), it’s also because it’s a competitive advantage.