Beating burnout: Insight from Thrive’s Arianna Huffington

We sat down with Thrive Global’s CEO and Founder, Arianna Huffington, who is bringing mental health awareness and tips for beating burnout to companies across the globe after her 2007 collapse from sleep deprivation

 

Why is burnout at an all-time high?   

The pandemic accelerated a mental health crisis we were already facing. Now, we’re in a period of profound transformation. Everything about the way we work, and the place of work in our lives, is being questioned, challenged, and redefined.   

Everywhere we look, we see the signs of a continuing crisis of stress and burnout – not only in our work but every aspect of our lives. According to the CDC, nearly one-quarter of American adults are now taking prescription drugs for mental health conditions. Eighty-four percent say their workplace conditions have contributed to at least one mental health challenge. People everywhere are looking for a sense of meaning, purpose, and belonging — to be a part of something larger than themselves.   

At the same time, I’ve never been more confident that we can fully deliver on our mission to end the stress and burnout epidemic. We’re in the middle of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to truly change how we live and work. We know people want change. We can see it in trends like quiet quitting — a rejection of burnout and hustle culture, but not a solution.  

The answer is to use all the tools at our disposal — cutting-edge AI, ancient wisdom, storytelling, Microsteps, connection, and community — to create a world where people are engaged in their work but not defined by it.  

How can managers and team leads recognize and address burnout in their teams?   

It starts with recognizing and addressing their own signs of burnout. There’s a reason why airline attendants always instruct us that, in the case of an emergency, we’ll be most able to help others if we secure our own oxygen masks first.   

Managers and team leads need to move beyond the misguided belief that in urgent times leaders need to be always on and drive themselves into burnout to meet the challenges. What is expected of leaders is judgment, not sheer stamina.   

Then, managers and team leads need to emphasize employee mental health. In the past three years, leaders have seen firsthand the growing mental health crisis and responded to the urgent need for employers to support the well-being of their employees.  

As we continue through challenging times, including, in many cases, massive layoffs that are also leaving remaining employees with a sense of survivor’s guilt, we need to reaffirm this commitment and prioritize the well-being and mental health of our employees. We must support them through the uncertain times that lie ahead and maintain our investments and commitments in this critical area. Because it’s in times like these that organizations most need to nurture their collective resilience.  

At Thrive, our approach to behavior change is all about Microsteps — small, science-backed steps we can take to build better habits.  

One of my favorite Microsteps as a leader is to open a meeting or one-on-one with a personal question rather than a work-related one. It allows us to go deeper, be more authentic, and forge a deeper connection. 

Have you reached burnout yourself, and how did you cope?  

Thrive grew out of my own experience with burnout. After I collapsed from sleep deprivation and exhaustion in 2007, I became more and more passionate about the connection between well-being and performance. In 2016, I launched Thrive to help individuals, companies, and communities improve their well-being and performance – and debunk the collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success.   

One of my favorite ways to minimize and address burnout both within Thrive and with our customers is with Thrive Reset, which allows us to course-correct and lower our stress in just 60 seconds. Thrive comes preloaded with 60-second Resets on themes including breathing, stretching, gratitude, and more. You can also create your own personal Resets with images that bring you calm and joy — your children, pets, landscapes — as well as quotes that inspire you and music you love.  

At Thrive, we’ve even brought Reset into our meetings, beginning each of our All Hands with a different team member sharing their personal Reset with the rest of the company. Instead of launching straight into updates and announcements, we get an intimate glimpse of our colleagues by being brought into their world — the people, the music, and the quotes they love.  

It’s incredible how much we can learn about each other in 60 seconds. I’m passionate about meeting people where they are and embedding these moments of well-being and connection into people’s workflow via tools like Thrive for Microsoft Teams and Thrive for Slack.  

What is Thrive’s whole-human approach to addressing burnout, and what results have you seen from companies using your methods?  

Our whole-human approach brings together the six key aspects of our lives that intersect with each other to create healthy habits and a healthy life: Recharge, Food, Move, Focus, Money, and Connect. We bring this behavior change together with the cultural activation that embeds well-being into the fabric of our customers’ employee experience and workflow. We’re building cutting-edge products used by companies like Accenture, Pfizer, Microsoft, Salesforce, Bank of America, Cisco, Hilton, P&G, Paramount, and Walmart.   

However, even the most innovative and sophisticated software can’t transform a company’s culture if it’s not integrated into employees’ daily lives. It then needs to be paired with leadership that role models and inspires behavior change and an acknowledgment that we are more than our work.  

That’s why I’m so grateful to be working with forward-thinking partners who are leading the culture shift, bringing Thrive’s whole human approach to their companies so that we can support their people at work and at home — as parents, as caregivers, with their sleep, food, and movement as well as in their relationships (including their relationship with their phones!).  

Again and again, we’re seeing clear evidence that helping employees reduce stress, connect to their larger sense of purpose, and make time for the things that bring them joy, in turn, helps drive greater business performance.  

Six years after our launch, we now have a data engine that proves the idea I founded the company on: that taking care of our well-being actually improves our performance. Employees engaging with the Thrive platform have seen the following:  

      •  76% increase in productivity  

      •  102% increase in engagement  

      •  104% increase in burnout prevention  

      •  233% increase in stress management   

    What does the partnership with Markaaz bring to Thrive, and what do you hope to bring to our audience?   

    Companies can no longer afford to see employee mental health as a warm-and-fuzzy perk. It’s a strategy for success. What I love most about this partnership is that we’re bringing this shift to life for businesses together. Now, the small and large businesses that Markaaz connects with will also be able to connect to the Thrive platform and its full range of real-time stress-reducing tools, inspirational storytelling, and science-backed Microsteps to help people build better habits.   

    It’s happening at the perfect time. According to Gallup, seven out of ten people globally struggle with mental health issues. We’re facing an epidemic of stress and burnout. In times of constant change and uncertainty, employees are clamoring for more well-being and mental health support. I’m thrilled that our partnership will be meeting people where they are by embedding Thrive’s solutions into their workflow through Markaaz’s Dashboard.  

     

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