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Early talent trends, Improving employer brand

Access recap: Creating a future where we can Thrive with Arianna Huffington

A conversation with Ariana Huffington on the necessity of self-care in our work-obsessed world

  • All of us, no matter how busy we are, can use micro-steps to make positive changes for better wellness. One brief, simple action can be the beginning of transformative change
  • Treating our whole selves with respect and care encourages joy, presence, and purpose at work
  • Leaders must model self-care behaviors to set a cultural example for employees

Ariana Huffington, media mogul and self-made woman, was drinking tomato soup from a coffee cup. It was just past 1 pm, and family obligations had left her with very little time to eat before her conversation with Handshake Chief Legal Officer Valerie Capers Workman during the Handshake Access event. Ariana innovated— serenely sipping from a steaming coffee mug without a hint that she was actually having lunch. Indeed, if she hadn’t explained it to the viewers, we never would have been the wiser.

But being honest about self-care, personal obligations, and family is what Ariana Huffington had joined us to speak about that day. So it was fitting that she led by example in that moment, just as she called fellow leaders and employees of every stripe to do.

In this article, we’ll wrap up some of the key takeaways from our conversation with Ariana Huffington, as well as share some practical tips for incorporating these ideas into your own work life.

Self-care is not a luxury item

"Self-care for employees is not optional," Ariana said. She called the idea that self-care is a luxury “a collective self-delusion” born of our obsession with work, productivity, and performance. The irony is that self-care (which could be defined as a commitment to making time for personal necessities like sleep, hygiene, family, exercise, relaxation, and eating healthy foods) is actually the foundation of any sustainable productivity habit.

Self-care is personal for Ariana. After experiencing an injury and being forced to cut back on work temporarily, she began to reconsider the role of work in her life and how she organized her priorities. Her interest in and research on well-being led her to prioritize communicating with individuals and corporations about the importance of self-care for personal and business success.

💡 Other executives agree with Arianna! Lynsey Wherry, VP of HR, Corporate Functions at General Mills, joined Valerie during a recent Handshake InnovationXchange executive roundtable event. Read a recap of their session.

The importance of sleep

Sleep is just one of the many physical and emotional needs we all balance, but it may just be the most important one. Getting enough high-quality sleep on a regular basis is necessary for good health. Sleep deprivation compromises our immunity, raises our risk for a variety of chronic illnesses, decreases insulin sensitivity, and causes cognitive problems (including memory problems). Struggles with sleep can cause us to miss work or perform poorly during the workday because we’re tired. Ariana suggested that the reason so many workers struggle with sleep is that increasing demands on us lead us to seek control in our lives. This desire for control conflicts with sleep because, as Ariana said, “our daily lives are about control, but sleep is about surrender.”

Modeling self-care behaviors at work

Good leaders know the importance of modeling self-care behaviors at work. Showing employees that you value and respect their whole selves—not just their ability to produce results—establishes a culture that respects boundaries and fosters sustainable growth. “Employees understand the importance of well-being at work,” Ariana told us. “It’s CEOs and leaders who don’t understand. Attrition, retention, performance— everything is connected to well-being.”

Ariana also emphasized how self-care is not something we can afford to reserve for ‘once in a while’. What you do daily is what shapes your mindset.

Moving beyond the crisis of burnout

The chaos, stress, and breakneck pace of the last several years have driven many of us toward burnout. One might think that the pandemic would have instigated a culture shift on just how much of our lives we’re willing to sacrifice for work; in many cases, individuals did change their minds about work, pursue new careers, go back to school, and retire early.

But institutionally, corporations and small businesses lag behind on these new attitudes about work and meaning. “[Our culture] made some progress during the pandemic, but then came harder economic conditions,” Ariana said. “We need to start viewing health and well-being as a third metric for success.”

Well-being is the foundation of good leadership

Not only should businesses begin to consider employee well-being as a metric for success—they should also use it in their hiring process. “As a leader, you are looking for resilience. Can you learn from difficult times and include them in who you are, or do you tune out or ignore problems? We need to stop calling these things soft skills. They are hardcore skills!” Ariana also points out that leaders who run on burnout and stress make poor decisions, further characterizing self-care as a critical skill for leaders.

From surviving to thriving

“We need time to restore ourselves in order to work and survive,” Ariana told us. “Downtime is a feature, not a bug, of the human operating system.” To move forward, leaders must give employees permission to bring their whole selves to work. People often know what they need— they just need the support and space to seek it.

Thank you to Ariana Huffington for joining us in conversation about the value of self-care at work. You can learn more about her work to promote well-being at work on the Thrive Global website.

Get more Access

Building your brand with Gen Z and ensuring they know you value mental health requires connecting with talent first! Handshake can give you a leg up by providing you access to 13M+ students across 1,400+ schools. To watch the full recording of our conversation with Arianna and Valerie—or to explore more content from Access 2023—check out the event page.

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