Getting a good night’s sleep is the key to success, Arianna Huffington tells overworked and stressed out Hongkongers
- The HuffPost founder wants to spread the message that burnout does not bring success
After creating a buzz by trying to convince Elon Musk to rethink his exhausting work habits, media mogul Arianna Huffington has called on Hong Kong firms to take a “work smart, not work hard” approach.
Challenging the belief that working punishing hours leads to success, Huffington is on a mission to spread the important message that taking time to properly recharge improves productivity, and reduces a company’s medical costs.
The high flyer’s own wake-up call came in 2007, two years into building her news website, The Huffington Post, when she collapsed from exhaustion and woke up in a pool of blood having broken her cheekbone in the fall.
She sold the firm, now known as HuffPost, to AOL in 2011 for US$315 million, but continued running it until 2016, the same year her book, The Sleep Revolution, was published, and she launched Thrive Global.
“Thrive Global’s mission is to end the stress and burnout epidemic through two main avenues: B2B work with companies on employee well-being and culture, and a media platform that focuses on the link between well-being and performance, with the latest science and new role models from the worlds of business, entertainment, sports and academia,” Huffington said.
Huffington, who has nearly three million followers on Twitter and about 1.4 million on Facebook, believes resting and refuelling are essential ingredients to reaching the top of any profession.
“There is a false belief that you must get burned out in order to be successful,” she said during a three-day visit to Hong Kong, before heading to Beijing on Sunday.
“Every CEO and leader’s quality of decisions determines their performance.”
Behind Hong Kong’s financial success lies a culture of long and stressful working hours, insufficient sleep, living with emails, and lives dominated by smartphones and laptops. The frenetic pace of life often sees commuters run between buses, trains and trams in their rush to get to the office or a meeting.
Even Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is not immune. She revealed a year ago that she sleeps for between three and five hours a day, such are the demands of her job.
“We are countering that by profiling leaders in business, politics, media and entertainment who are taking steps to make sure they recharge to optimise their performance. Like Jeff Bezos, Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater, Chip Bergh, the CEO of Levi’s, and many, many others,” Huffington said.
Huffington, who sees Musk’s travails as a teachable moment, wrote an open letter to the Tesla CEO in the summer urging him to regularly take time “to refuel, recharge and reconnect with his exceptional reserves of creativity and his power to innovate” after he revealed he worked 120 hours a week.
“Elon Musk tweeted in the middle of the night that he had the funding to take his company private, which launched a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation that showed he did not have the funding, and led to his having to step down as chairman of Tesla and pay a US$20 million fine,” she said.
In response to her advice to refuel and recharge, Musk said: “It is not an option.”
Sleeping for eight hours is now normal for Huffington, but other people’s lives are disrupted by technology, she said.
She cited scientific data that showed people need between seven and nine hours of sleep a day.
Before going to sleep, she turns off her electronic devices and lets her mobile phone charge away from her bedroom.
“Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away to allow us to sleep – our to-do list, our inbox, the demands of the day,” she said. “So charging your phone away from your bed makes you more likely to wake up as fully charged as your phone.
“I also meditate each morning before I start my day, and work out almost every day, even if it’s only for 30 minutes. These are all small, incremental, daily steps we can all take.”
Huffington said Thrive Global had launched mobile phone apps that delete incoming emails, while letting senders know when recipients will be back – something which truly allows users to be disconnected and recharged during holidays.
The start-up, which is valued at US$120 million, counts businessmen Jack Ma and Joseph Tsai as investors. The pair are also co-founders of Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post.
According to this year’s AIA healthy living index, getting enough sleep is proving to be increasingly hard work for Hong Kong residents.
On average, people sleep 1.2 hours less each night than they want, compared with a one-hour gap in 2016, when the last survey was done.