Arianna Huffington: the work day is done, tear off your devices

Miguel D'Souza - AAP

2 minute read

Arianna Huffington had a simple message for WOBI Sydney: stress and tiredness are a global epidemic with an incredible cost to our lives and ultimately to the success of business.

Huffington spoke via video link from Fresno where she was supporting family friends who had suffered a personal tragedy. 

We’ve been living under a delusion that in order to succeed, we need to burn out, we need to be always on. Now, for the first time in history, we have evidence that this is not true.

She cited research which shows sleep deficit costs the US economy $US400 million ($A535.80m) a year.

“In Australia, we see the impact that stress has on engagement, productivity and attrition," Huffington said.

“There is no trade-off between well-being and business metrics we care about."

But rather than working your employees hard, the opposite should be the case to be truly successful.

“In fact, when businesses take care of their employees, it improves the bottom line.

The value of downtime

“We started treating humans as machines. But the human operating system is not a machine. The human needs downtime.

"Humankind has evolved fast since the Industrial Revolution, with the eight-hour day, five day week and weekend all contributing to the struggle by employers to make their staff work harder, and longer. But there’s a price.

“All these tendencies which started with the Industrial Revolution and they have been exacerbated by the digital revolution."

Digital technology has contributed to the impact of noise on already stretched human workers.

When people are addicted to their devices and always on, they are not contributing creatively.

And she practises what she preaches.

"My productivity on the Amazon board is dependent on it," Huffington said.

"When people disconnect they become better leaders. It is impossible to get people to adjust to the 24-hour nature of business: which is why we need teams."

Stress has become a global epidemic

Huffington told the World Business Forum in Sydney that change was needed.

"Everything I am saying here is data driven and based on the latest science - I find it amazing that so many people still refuse to look at the metrics and data and make changes accordingly.

We may be drowning in data, but lacking in wisdom, "seeing things before others see them", she said.