Arianna Huffington’s personal inspiration for Thrive, her latest nonfiction book, occurred on the morning of April 6, 2007. She was working in her home office when she suddenly collapsed and struck her head against the edge of a desk, cutting one of her eyes and breaking her cheekbone.
At the time, Huffington was one of the influential and powerful figures in the media (and still is). She had cofounded The Huffington Post two years earlier and built it into a major global media organization. However, her relentless quest for professional success had led her to working “18 hours a day, seven days a week,” she says. The cause of her collapse? “Exhaustion and a lack of sleep.”
While recovering from her injuries, Huffington discovered that a doctor’s waiting room was a suitable locale for re-examining her lifestyle and pondering what “the good life” means to her. Although Huffington had achieved the traditional measures of success—power and money—she found them to be a two-legged stool. “You can balance on them for a while,” she says, “but eventually you’re going to topple over.”
Fortunately, Huffington learned from her nasty tumble. Her subsequent hours of introspection, personal evaluation, reading, and listening to others led her to devise what she terms the Third Metric, “a measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.”
In Thrive, Huffington describes how she reached this sage conclusion (her Greek mother is an important source of wisdom) and then re-organized her personal and professional lives. As a result, not only has Huffington continued her enviable productivity as an author and journalist (Thrive is her 14th book), but she no longer worries about shattering her cheekbone at home due to a nasty, self-inflicted bout of sleep deprivation.
What CIOs can learn from Arianna
Here are some of the ways that Huffington has re-organized her personal and professional lives, shed her workaholic lifestyle, and helped prevent the employees at the Huffington Post from burning out and literally crashing, like she once had.
Establish Sane Workplace Hours
After her collapse in 2007, Huffington strived to prevent her employees from burning out. One of her first steps was to let her employees know that, even though The Huffington Post is a 24/7 global news operation, employees were not expected to check their email outside of their normal work hours. Likewise, Huffington encourages bosses to follow the example of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg who “has said publicly that she leaves the office at 5:30 to have dinner with her two children and encourages others to find schedules that work for them so they can get the time with their families—or just the time for themselves—that they need.”
Use Your Vacation Time
In order for employees to recharge, they need a healthy break from the rigors of work. Which is why Huffington gives her employees a generous three weeks of vacation time—and highly encourages them to use all of it.
A Little Sleep Does Wonders
Another way Huffington looks after her employees is by providing nap rooms at the Huffington Post offices. The New York office now sports a pair of nap rooms, and Huffington notes in Thrive that the notion of a sleep oasis at a fast-paced news operation was initially met with some skepticism. Now, the nap rooms are often occupied, especially in the afternoon.
The Road to Wellness
To foster wellness among its employees, The Huffington Post now offers mediation, yoga, and breathing cases during the week. Employees also have access to a gym, and the company’s wellness program that pays them up to $500 a year for their active participation.
Health Food, Not Junk Food
As for the Huffington Post pantry, its refrigerators are now well stocked with healthy snacks, including fruit, hummus, yogurt, and baby carrots. After all, she says, “your employees’ health is one of the most important predictors of the company’s health.”
Thrive is an inspirational and useful guide for anyone who labors in today’s digital economy. Readers who embrace its four pillars might discover that, as Huffington puts it, you can “remake the world in your own image, according to your own definition of success, so that all of us can thrive and live our lives with more grace, more joy, more compassion, more gratitude, and yes, more love.”