- Arianna Huffington has developed a new tool to help call center workers feel less stressed.
- It involves 60-90 second “resets” involving breathing exercises, quotes, and dog pictures.
- Huffington told Insider it’s about preventing burnout, rather than dealing with its effects.
I sway back and forth, following the movements of a pulsating circle that dances around the screen. It tells me to inhale, then exhale slowly. After a minute, a serene, high female voice whispers: “Now you’re reset.”
This is Arianna Huffington’s latest plan for fighting burnout: 60- to 90-second “micro interventions” in the form of breathing exercises, prompts to stretch, or inspirational quotes, which aim to break up the cycle of stress that slowly builds throughout the workday .
Huffington is famous for founding the media company Huffington Post and her high-profile board positions at companies such as Uber.
She’s been vocal about the problem of burnout after collapsing and breaking her cheekbone on her office desk in 2007, which she said was caused by overwork. In 2016, she founded the wellbeing consultancy Thrive Global.
Her new tool, Thrive Reset, was developed in conjunction with the cloud software company Genesys and is aimed at call center workers.
“While stress is unavoidable in any job. Cumulative stress is avoidable by embedding within the workflow 60- to 90-second breaks,” Huffington told Insider.
She said the tech is based around the research of Stanford social scientist BJ Fogg, who wrote the book “Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything.”
Employers can decide what “trigger” causes the software to kick in. This could be a long call, an instance where a call has to be elevated to a manager, or taking a string of calls without a break. It then appears on the employee’s screen or in their earpiece.
Huffington shared her own reset as an example. It features images of her children and dog, as well as inspirational quotes from the Buddhist monk Pema Chodron. But she said there are multiple “resets” that people can choose.
When interventions are embedded in a person’s workflow, it makes them much easier to follow, Huffington told Insider. It’s also designed to be proactive.
“A lot of interventions happen after the fact. Our intention is to be proactive, and prevent burnout, rather than deal with it after it has happened,” Huffington said.
She added that the product has been tested in a Fortune 10 company and led to lower levels of stress and reduced turnover.
When I had to go, I found it slightly awkward but I did try it outside of a call center at a time when I wasn’t feeling particularly stressed.
Wellbeing tools can be problematic
Over the last few years, the market has become saturated with products and founders proclaiming to end burnout and help people shut off.
The pandemic, combined with the Great Resignation, has seemingly accelerated that trend as companies become more aware of the impact of lockdown and negative news cycles on workers’ mental wellbeing.
But there are concerns that flashy tech can act as a distraction. Other studies even suggest that
can sometimes have a negative impact, which can cause people to suppress feelings of guilt and impact their personal relationships.
“Tactical wellbeing” can be useful for helping someone cope with stress and burnout, for example by making them think about breaks. But they are not a solution on their own, Cary Cooper, professor of organizational psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School, told Insider.
“Organizations tend to look for simple solutions to complex problems,” Cooper said. Many focus on “low-hanging fruit” like mindfulness days, beanbags, and free sushi as a solution, rather than looking at the intrinsic problems that lead to burnout in the first place.
Those perks are “nice to have but not a must-have,” according to Cooper. Problems won’t go away unless they focus on the core causes of burnout and stress, he said. This can stem from micromanaging bosses, unmanageable workloads, and other organizational issues.
Huffington agrees. It’s not an either/or situation, she said. Her tool from Ella is a nudge to workers, designed to complement other initiatives.
“If you can interrupt the burnout cycle, it has a huge impact on employees not feeling propelled to leave their jobs,” she added.