Mediaplanet: Why do you think employee engagement and well-being are so important today?

Arianna Huffington: Because they’re so directly tied to the bottom-line. There’s a lot of data that clearly shows that the long-term health of a company’s bottom-line is strongly connected to the long-term health and well-being of its employees. And engagement is a large component of employee well-being.

MP: It's a broad term, but what does “workplace wellness” mean to you?

AH: It means people are not merely surviving but thriving — and not just in the workplace, but in every part of their lives. We don't have a work life and a home life — we just have life. And it’s all connected. So workplace wellness means a workplace that enhances and augments an employee’s ability to thrive.

MP: At what point in your career did you realize the importance of investing in people?

AH: I’ve always believed that since, ultimately, companies are just collections of people working toward a common mission and shared goals, if you don’t start by investing in people, you just won’t succeed.

MP: What advice would you give to an employer  looking to change and improve their workplace culture?

AH: Model healthier workplace behaviour.It’s important to incentivize others by making it very clear that, for instance, not getting sleep and staying at the office too late is not celebrated and rewarded. When those employees who take care of themselves by recharging are applauded and held up as role models, other employees will follow suit.

MP: How are technology and software innovations changing the way employers interact with their employees?

AH: As more and more people are realizing, technology is just a tool — it can be good or bad, depending on how we use it. So technology can be used to fuel burnout or it can be used by employers to track employee well-being and support employees who are in danger of burning out. We’re going to be seeing more technology designed to help us unplug and disconnect, and employers who put that to use will have a competitive edge.

MP: Why is work-life balance such a crucial consideration?

AH: At Thrive we believe that balance is the wrong premise. As all the latest science shows, well-being and productivity are not on opposite sides —they’re on the same side. Enhance one and you enhance the other.

MP: How should employers approach the topic of stress, anxiety, and other mental health considerations with their employees?

AH: They should do it openly and as a regular part of the ongoing conversation. These aren’t topics that should be reserved for discussions with HR but should be everyday topics across all departments. The more integrated they are, the easier it will be to course-correct, and the healthier the company culture will be.

MP: The workforce is always evolving. How can employers make sure their wellness and benefits programs are keeping up with the trends?

AH: They need to remember that well-being isn’t just an HR discussion, it’s a bottom-line discussion — central to the success of a company. So the most important thing they can do is give well-being the priority it deserves. That’s easier to do if you think of it as interchangeable with performance.

MP: What can employers do to foster healthy workplace habits?

AH: Along with great well-being policies, companies need the culture shift to be modeled at the top. If HR is saying one thing, but senior management is still incentivizing burnout culture, we know which message most employees will listen to.

Another good place to start is with our relationship with technology. Try having device-free meetings, for instance. They’re not only more productive, they show people the benefits of device-free time, which they can then replicate at home.

MP: What’s the most important consideration for employers who want their workplaces to remain healthy, productive, and successful?

AH: To be on a constant watch for ways in which, even unwittingly, they might be incentivizing burnout culture. People need to unplug and recharge to perform at their best, so a healthy workplace is one in which the employer makes that easier and not harder.