I recently had the opportunity to hear a true agent of change share a compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today’s world. Arianna Huffington, Chair, President and Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post Media Group, shared a detailed roadmap for positive lifestyle change during her keynote speech at the inaugural Quality of Life Conference. She had just come from the funeral of Sheryl Sandberg’s husband, Dave Goldberg, and she posed the question: “Why is it that our eulogies are so different from our resumes?” People’s resumes often bear little resemblance to their eulogies. We are not spending our days aligned with the values people will remember us for.
She pointed out that our current model is broken:
- 75% of healthcare costs are the result of preventable, stress-related diseases
- Technology promotes the idea that we are available and accessible 24/7
How many of us sleep with our phone next to our bed? It’s the first thing we reach for when we wake up. We check email during our vacations. In discussing the unsustainability of modern lifestyles and corporate practices that encourage burnout, Arianna used herself as an example. Eight years ago, sleep deprived and exhausted, she collapsed while working and hit her head on her desk, breaking her cheekbone. She considers herself lucky to get that wake-up call.
Arianna believes that for people, organizations and communities to be sustainably prosperous, quality-of-life considerations must be front and center. If Arianna is correct, today’s narrow interpretation of success will be expanded to include living a long and happy life by taking care of ourselves, and encouraging the same for others.
In the future, people may look back and, wonder what we were thinking. Organizations must recognize that they pay a price in employee productivity and creativity when they push people to their limits. Sleep deprivation is the stuff of boasts, but research validates that sleep, meditation and time to recharge are essential. Arianna pointed out that professional athletes would never risk competing without adequate sleep and proper nutrition.
Lack of sleep is just as detrimental to mental performance as to physical performance. Energized, healthy people are vastly more productive and creative, and make better leaders. The evidence is measureable on organizations’ bottom lines. Arianna pointed out initiatives to drive change that include:
- She wrote the book Thrive to wake up the world to the necessity of prioritizing quality of life
- One third of companies in the United States are introducing quality of life practices into the workplace, including Mindfulness programs, yoga classes, meditation sessions and vacation email policies
- The Huffington Post’s “What Works,” has begun to track organizational quality-of-life practices around the world to help accelerate adoption
- At the Huffington Post, teams work collaboratively so that individuals are not working 24/7 even though the business does. They enforce device-free meetings and accomplish more at a quicker pace because people are not multi-tasking
Burnout should not be a requirement for success. We must learn to be fully present, and take better care of ourselves—to know our personal battery life as well as that of our smartphones.
George Chavel is the President & CEO of Sodexo North America and a strong advocate for the new performance frontier: Quality of Life. Mr. Chavel believes that people’s well-being is at the heart of economic growth and prosperity and that fostering a more human economy will lead to sustainable and harmonious growth.