Finding a way out of the split-screen life

Since we launched The Huffington Post's Third Metric campaign -- to redefine success beyond the first two metrics of money and power to include well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder and to give back -- I've been seeing things through a Third Metric lens. And what I see is a split-screen world. On one side, we have endless examples of how the business world and the American workplace still haven't changed, and continue to glorify an approach to measuring success that leads to burnout and a culture enraptured with technology to the point that tools meant to give us greater control of our lives have, instead, taken control of our lives.

On the other side of the screen, there are more and more examples, from companies large and small, of prioritizing well-being. And even at companies that haven't yet learned why encouraging well-being is good for both their employees and their bottom line, there are more and more examples of individuals applying Third Metric principles in their own lives to help them cope with the negative effects of a retrograde workplace atmosphere.

One of the primary things keeping many businesses from adopting more sane and sustainable metrics of success is the stubborn -- and dangerously wrongheaded -- myth that prioritizing health and well-being is incompatible with a healthy bottom-line -- and that there is a trade-off between high performance and taking care of ourselves. As countless studies show, this couldn't be less true.

Indeed, all across the country, more and more businesses are realizing that the long-term health of their bottom line is directly tied to the long-term health of their employees. Right now, about a quarter of U.S. corporations offer some sort of stress-reduction program. And those that do are starting to be recognized for their efforts, especially by employees., the social jobs and careers community, recently released their third annual list of the top 25 companies for work-life balance. "Companies that make sincere efforts to recognize employees' lives outside of the office," said Glassdoor's Rusty Rueff, "will often see the payoff when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent."

Last month, HuffPost's Peter Goodman wrote about Promega, a biotech company in Wisconsin. Employees have access to on-site yoga classes, fitness centers, healthy meals, offices filled with natural light, and "third spaces," which are areas that are neither work nor home, like cafes and lounges. "You create a culture of wellness," Promega's chief medical officer, Ashley G. Anderson Jr., told Goodman. "If you create a culture in which vibrant physicality is an admired thing, you've achieved a lot. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce."

The Minneapolis staffing company Salo has enlisted the best-selling author Dan Buettner for help. Buettner is an expert in so-called "Blue Zones," regions of the world with the highest life expectancy, and is helping make Salo the first certified Blue Zone workplace. By adding meditation rooms, adjustable-height desks, cooking lessons and "purpose workshops" to help employees follow their non-work passions, the effort is yielding results -- for both the employees and company. "There's a culture and developing reputation at Salo as a place that puts the well-being of its employees and partners in front of just profits." Buettner told the Minnesota-based Southwest Journal. "That's a reputation that will transcend our time with them."

At the nearly 100-year-old supermarket chain Wegman's, Danny Wegman, grandson of the founder, has seen the benefit of encouraging his 45,000 employees to get healthier. The company now offers on-site yoga and Zumba classes, nutritional counseling and high blood pressure screenings.

Third Metric practices certainly aren't limited to just yoga and meditation. Instead of creativity-deadening conference rooms, Farhad Chowdhury, CEO of the software development company Fifth Tribe, connects with collaborators during a four-mile hike.

As Gregory Burns, author of "Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently," has discussed at length, insight and discovery are most accessible to us when we break up our routine.

On the other side of the split screen -- well, we've still got a lot of work to do. Stress is still costing U.S. businesses an estimated $300 billion every year. Health care costs for employees with high stress levels are 46 percent higher than for lower-stressed colleagues. Over half of employees say that work stress has made them look for a new job, leave a job or say no to a promotion. And then there's the ever-onward creep of technology -- into our lives, our families, our bedrooms, our brains. The average smartphone user checks her or his email every 6 1/2 minutes, which works out to be around 150 times a day.

But not only is there no trade-off between high performance and living a full life; the former is not possible in a sustainable way without the latter. And this applies to both companies and individuals.

And, yes, there is a paradox here: What we're talking about, really, is what's ultimately important in our lives. And, as it turns out, the tools and practices that put us in touch with ourselves and make us present for what's really important in our lives also make us more successful at many of the very things that these practices make us realize aren't the most important things.

One day there will be no more split screen. In the meantime, we should remember to regularly shut the screen off.

(Arianna Huffington is president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group. Her email address is

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