Arianna Huffington And Citi Are Supporting Women To Do Less And Achieve More

We all love our phones. The convenience and connection allows us to do more, but this comes at the cost of never disconnecting. The average smartphone user in the United States touches their phone 2,617 times a day, according to the research firm Dscout.

The need to always be available, not only increases our stress levels but it adversely impacts our health. This is more detrimental for women, who have a higher chance of experiencing stress and burnout compared to men.

Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global, a one-stop-shop for improving well-being and performance says that always being online significantly places women at greater risk for developing heart disease and diabetes. “Workplace cultures have been created by men, who believe the illusion that to succeed you need to always be on. Never disconnecting,” says Huffington.

To disrupt this, Huffington and Citi, the global bank, are developing and refining technology applications that will support people to spend less time online. The aim is to enable people to switch off and take time out to recharge.

I spoke with Huffington and Citi’s Global Consumer Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Breithaupt, to find how companies are developing technology that will help women to do less and achieve more.

King: What are some of the challenges with workplace cultures today, in terms of how they support women?

Huffington: It is about changing workplace cultures. I feel we need to recognize that despite so many efforts to improve the numbers - in terms of how many women are on boards and in executive positions etc. - they have not really budged. We need to recognize that something is wrong with workplace cultures, - which is that they are fueled by stress and burnout. We have so much data that says this is a terrible way to work. It makes you less productive. It impairs your decision making. You are more reactive and less empathetic with your colleagues. And worst of all women pay a much heavier price.

King: What do you both think organizations need to do to advance gender equality?

Huffington: Start with small things like, do you have a room for mothers to go to pump milk for their babies? This sounds obvious but I have spoken to plenty of professional mothers who are in tears because they have to pump in the bathroom. Or are women expected to bond with their colleagues at drunken parties? We need to give multiple ways for people to bond with their colleagues to help advance their career. In terms of larger things, recognize that it is no longer about work life balance. It is about setting expectations and rules of engagement. We have too many instances of people who feel that they can never disconnect.

Breithaupt: I think there needs to be more work cultures that support balance. I also think as women we have a responsibility in how we represent other women and ourselves. So, for example not sending non-urgent emails on a Sunday evening, as this upsets everyone’s weekend. We need to empower other women, by serving as their mentors. We need to take time out to help other women because supporting one another is incredibly important.

King: What role does technology play in supporting women to find balance. Do you have an example you can both share?

Breithaupt: People are looking down at their device all the time. Whether that is at home or in meetings - we are just not present. Citi has been thinking about how can we design our app so that you spend less time on it. We want you to do what you need to do with Citi and then put the phone away and engage in life’s moments. While people are designing products so that you spend more time on them, we are designing ours so that you spend less.

Huffington: I think it is amazing that you are doing this, because it is almost a backlash against technology and companies who are trying to hijack people’s attention with endless notifications. To begin to see companies encourage the people they engage with to use technology in ways that will make things easier (rather than consuming more) is the future.

For example, we also recently launched a Thrive app. You can use it to put your phone on thrive mode when you don’t want to be distracted. So, if I am in thrive mode and you text me you will get a text back that says, ‘Arianna is in thrive mode’. It creates a new cultural expectation because now if someone texts me and they don’t instantly get a text back they practically call 911.

King: What advice can you share with women, on how they do less and be more effective?

Huffington: I would like to give a challenge to all of us to start and end our day in an intentional way. Everyone doesn’t have a natural end to their day. No one says my day is now done, because we get hooked to staying online. We think we will get to the end but that moment never comes. I want every woman to declare an end to her day. Knowing it is not an end to everything that needs to be completed but it is marked by turning off computers and laptops. It is about having a natural transition from your work day to your personal time where you can fully recharge.

Breithaupt: Women have such an incredible slate of things on their plate every date, we just need to allow them to disconnect. Schedule one thing a day that you look forward too. Honor that every single day, and respect your private time. Respect that and don’t let other people take that away from you. Don’t be afraid to disconcert and switch off.