Arianna Huffington wants to help fix our 'culture of burnout'

Arianna Huffington is one of the most influential women in media, but today she defines herself as a wellness guru an...

Posted: Mar 26, 2018 3:51 PM
Updated: Mar 26, 2018 3:51 PM

Arianna Huffington is one of the most influential women in media, but today she defines herself as a wellness guru and a so-called "sleep evangelist."

Her mission: To fix a "culture of burnout" in the workplace.

As the founder and CEO of wellness company, Thrive Global, Huffington believes the mentality that we must overwork to get ahead has become a global problem. She's seeking to educate companies on the benefits of a healthy workplace.

"Corporate America is shifting. There are, as always, companies that are ahead of the curve, but everybody's recognizing that if you don't take care of the well-being of your employees it's going to effect the bottom line," Huffington tells CNN's Poppy Harlow in a new episode of Boss Files.

Huffington had an awakening in 2007 after she collapsed at her desk from exhaustion, from what she later defined as "civilization's disease, burnout." She awoke in a pool of blood, with a broken cheekbone.

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"That was the beginning of this journey that led me to understanding the new science, to understanding the different and better ways to live life," Huffington says. "I wanted to help people bring about small behavioral changes that would allow them to actually move from awareness to action."

She calls it the "third metric" of success, a subject she has now written two books, given a TED Talk and launched a company about. In 2016, she stepped down from her decades-long career at her namesake online news site, The Huffington Post, to lead the venture.

Huffington insists she is only able to be such a powerhouse in the business world because she prioritizes sleep. She feels burnout is particularly prevalent among women.

"Women process stress differently," Huffington says. "If we can change the workplace culture to make it more welcoming for women, we're also going to improve behavior, and we're going to improve outcomes."

A chief tenet of Thrive Global's philosophy is the importance of work-life balance.

"When we take care of ourselves, we are more effective, we are more creative, and we are more successful in a broad definition of the word," says Huffington.

Thrive Global publishes original content, sells products and offers workshops on health and wellness to global companies like JPMorgan Chase, Under Armor and Accenture.

The site's content includes an interview with Ann Romney, who talks about coping with multiple sclerosis and the stress she faced as the wife of presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign, and a column by Maria Shriver, who writes about her battle with Alzheimer's. There are also online courses, like Kobe Bryant's class on meditation.

Huffington appears to have tapped into a hot market. Corporate wellness is expected to grow from an estimated $9 billion in revenue this year to $11.3 billion by 2021, according to market research company, Statista.

"We now have a lot of evidence, and a lot of data, that shows that when we're depleted, we really don't make the best decisions. We don't operate from the wisest side of our self, and a lot of leaders are beginning to realize that," Huffington says.

She points to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who explained in an interview with Thrive why sleeping eight hours a night is good for Amazon's shareholders.

In addition to the importance of sleep, Huffington also preaches the need to untether from technology, often with a missionary's zeal. She argues "we need to disconnect in a connected world."

It's something she too is practicing.

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"I declare an end to my day by removing my phone from my bedroom, and putting it in a phone charging bed," she says.

She's talking about The Phone Bed Charging Station, a Thrive Global product that resembles a small bed and serves as a place to charge phones and other devices. The goal, she says, is to leave the phone outside the bedroom for the night, "so we can get the sleep we need to wake up fully recharged." Last month, Thrive launched an app that mutes notifications and responds to text messages when you wish to disconnect.

"I really think that I'm much more present. I'm really present in what I'm doing...I'm not thinking 'What am I doing next? Who is texting me?'" she tells CNN's Harlow.

Huffington credits her mother for instilling this "don't miss the moment" mindset. She says her mother is someone who lived that "third metric" her whole life.

"I think she's the foundation of everything I've done," Huffington says. "I think definitely my mother's fear of failure helps make me more resilient and helps make me persevere."

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