Being one of the most powerful and influential women in the world comes at a price. Arianna Huffington speaks exclusively to HRMonline in the run-up to her talk at the World Business Forum in Sydney.
Arianna Huffington, the Greek-American businesswoman and author, best known as co-founder of the Huffington Post, is making a splash in Australia. Her desire is to promote her latest venture, Thrive Global, a corporate and consumer well-being and productivity platform she launched in 2016. Huffington heads the line-up of speakers at the World Business Forum in Sydney at the end of the month and a series of practical one-day Thrive programs will be running in various locations in Australia.
The substance of what Thrive is all about speaks directly to HR’s role in the future of business success.
“Wellbeing is not a soft benefit – it’s a necessity,” says Huffington. “It’s not just an HR discussion, it’s a profit discussion. And companies that understand this and embrace the new science will win the future.”
In a nutshell, the mission of Thrive Global is to change the way we work and live, by ending the collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success.
Huffington herself has had a glittering career. She won a scholarship to Cambridge, published her first book shortly after graduating, has delved into broadcasting and flirted with politics, all before co-founding the global media news site, The Huffington Post – currently the third largest source of online news today.
But a life lived at such velocity can only endure so long. It took a personal wake-up call for Huffington to put the brakes on.
After admitting to working 18 hour days, seven days a week, one day in 2007 she collapsed forwards onto her desk with exhaustion, breaking her cheekbone and ending up with four stitches near her right eye.
(To find out more about the dangers of burnout and why HR, in particular, needs to work less read our article.)
Now, at the age of 66, Huffington is preaching that we all need to slow down, step back and reassess traditional ideas of what success looks like. This is something she has done, as detailed in her book Thrive which offers small, practical steps on how relish the moments and find reward beyond the tokens of money and status.
That’s all very well for someone, one might argue, who has scaled great heights. What about people struggling to make ends meet? Is Nirvana really only achievable if you have financial security?
“The goal isn’t Nirvana, but just being able to live a life that you find fulfilling and that allows you to thrive,” says Huffington. “But, more important, I would say that strategies that build our resilience are valuable for everybody, including and especially those in challenging circumstances.”
Money can’t buy you happiness is a truism usually repeated by those who have plenty of it: money that is. But unless you’ve inherited money, there are plenty of examples in our own lives of people who have worked long and hard – often sacrificing time with children and families – in order to afford the trappings of success. It’s these people that Huffington is addressing when she insists contentment is not about having success in conventional terms.
“I can’t count the number of people who are very successful in the ways our society defines it, and yet tell me that they’re miserable, burned out and exhausted all the time. Stress and burnout are nearly universal. But so are the solutions.”
Along with the solutions offered by Thrive Global, Huffington agrees that “we also need policies such as paid family leave, affordable daycare, and later school start times” to help us live a life in balance.
For Huffington, at least, a life in balance seems something she is working hard to achieve.
The full interview with Huffington will be the cover story of the July edition of HRmagzine.
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