Pandemic mental health crisis looming, says Arianna Huffington

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Thrive founder Arianna Huffington says mental health will be the new battleground in the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Australia is on the brink of a major mental health crisis in the workplace as burn out among workers rapidly accelerates during the COVID-19 pandemic, Arianna Huffington has warned.

The founder and chief executive of Thrive Global and co-founder of the Huffington Post said fostering resilience in employees would be the next key battleground in dealing with the fallout from the virus.

“The world was in the midst of a growing mental health crisis before this year, and that crisis has only been intensified by the pandemic,” Ms Huffington told Hatch.

“It accelerated trends that were already breaking down the old model of working, and it made the importance of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace impossible to ignore.”

The business leader’s Thrive Global, the world’s first behaviour change platform founded four years ago, combines data, storytelling and a step-plan of actions to improve work culture and support staff.

The Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) has become the first adopter of Thrive’s program in Australia, which also combines research from Monash University.

Ms Huffington added: “Both companies and employees now realise wellbeing isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s a ‘must have’. Mental resilience is what allows us not just to navigate uncertainty, but grow and get better, even in times of disruption.

“Marketing and advertising have been particularly hard hit by stress, burnout and mental health issues, especially during the pandemic. One study showed that the rate of burnout is 20 per cent higher in this industry than in the general population.”

She said ADMA and ADMA chief executive Andrea Martens were committed to improve mental wellness in the industry.

Ms Martens said business leaders needed the tools and resources for developing employee mental health as well as their own.

“What really sat well for us, in terms of the philosophy and approach is that it is science-backed. It is all based on data, plus storytelling, which in many ways is just like marketing,” said Ms Martens.

ADMA chief executive Andrea Martens. (Photo: Supplied)

“With behavioural changes like this, it can’t just be a one-off, it has to be long term and has to have the effect that we know what we need and what organisations would be looking for.”

The exclusive Asia Pacific partnership is tailored to the company and individual workers using AI-driven digital technology.

“We couldn’t have a better partner than Monash University,” said Ms Huffington. “It’s a way of taking our global work and our whole-human approach, localising it and customising it.

“Monash, with its local research, local experts, and physical footprint through the region, allows us to have a real impact on people’s lives in Australia and the entire region.”

Both companies believe taking care of employee mental health will be one of the biggest tasks in a post-pandemic world.

“$1.5 billion is paid annually in workers compensation and life insurance claims on work-related mental health conditions in Australia,” said Ms Martens. “There was a recent survey conducted by Alliance that 80 per cent of Australian workers want workplaces to double down on mental health initiatives

“The way we provide this, it ends up being just over a dollar a day, per employee. That is a really sustainable way to be able for leaders to support their teams, with really recognisable benefits.

“Overall, an employer is also responsible for the mental health of an employee. It is critical for Australian business, and it’s critical as we accelerate out of this situation, and we need our teams to be in the best possible place to do that.”

Main image Mark Taylor/wikimedia creative commons.