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Liebe Grüße From Munich: HuffPost Goes to Germany

10/10/2013 04:25 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

MUNICH -- Greetings from Germany! I'm here in Munich for the launch of The Huffington Post Deutschland. We are delighted to be partnering with Hubert Burda Media's Tomorrow Focus, one of Germany's fastest-growing digital media companies, which includes the third-largest news site in Germany, Focus Online. HuffPost Deutschland -- which will be led by our editorial director Cherno Jobatey, who for 20 years was the host of the popular morning show ZDF-Morgenmagazin -- will be both a journalistic outlet and a blogging platform for Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

For a long time I was determined to learn German -- a language my mother spoke fluently -- and to be able to read some of my all-time favorite authors in the original. But when I turned 40, I made a list of all the things that I was realistically never going to be able to accomplish, and learning German -- as well as becoming a good skier -- was on the list. Today I'm very happy about my skiing decision, but I regret my German one. So, sadly, these days my German is pretty much limited to my overuse of "Zeitgeist."

HuffPost Deutschland will be relentlessly covering politics and news at a very fascinating moment in German history, as Germany takes on an ascendant role in Europe -- from Chancellor Angela Merkel's historic recent election victory to the installment of the first-ever members of parliament of African descent and so many other milestones. But while we'll be covering all the developments in the realms of politics, business and economics, we'll also be telling the stories that matter when it comes to everything from technology, sports and food to media, religion and entertainment.

And we'll be going beyond the moment and the Perpetual Now that too often dominate our media culture. A big part of our mission will entail putting a spotlight on how Germans of all generations are dealing with the Third Metric, which is what we call redefining success beyond the first two metrics of money and power to include well-being, wisdom, wonder, compassion and giving.

In Germany, as in most developed countries, integrating work into the rest of our lives is increasingly challenging. To start, 43 percent of German workers say their jobs have become more stressful in the past two years. And as Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen put it, "In 2011, we logged 59 million lost days of work owing to psychological illnesses. That constitutes an increase of more than 80 percent in the last 15 years."

While these are disheartening numbers with potentially devastating consequences, the fact that Germany is directly confronting its problems is encouraging. To its great credit, Germany, more than any other Western country, is having a real national conversation about the staggering cost of burnout.

"We're losing a lot of time and money in Germany before businesses recognise that it's not just about migraines or psychosomatic back problems," von der Leyen told AFP last year. "Nothing is more expensive than sending a good worker into retirement in their mid-40s because they're burned out. These cases are no longer just the exception. It's a trend that we have to do something about." A 2012 study by the market research institute firm Rheingold found that for 46 percent of Germans, everyday stress increasingly prevents them from enjoying life. As Der Spiegel reported, "Whether it's with food, alcohol, vacation or relaxing -- Germans apparently don't have the leisure to enjoy things. In fact, they can't even let go when they're having sex." The report concluded: "Our joy gene is increasingly defective -- we've forgotten how to enjoy ourselves." HuffPost Deutschland will make it one of its missions to change that!

Meanwhile, there are some real and promising efforts to combat burnout, as more and more individuals and organizations are spurred to action. To counter the effects of a hyperconnected work culture, many German companies, including Volkswagen, Puma and BMW, have imposed limits on after-hours emails. One of the most vocal advocates of reduced connectivity was Carsten Schloter, the CEO of the telecom company Swisscom, who told Switzerland's Schweiz am Sonntag, "The most dangerous thing is to fall into a mode of permanent activity...." In July Schloter was found dead of a suspected suicide, and the details of his addiction to his smartphone, which he had spoken of publicly, were widely re-reported. "I must say that I find it increasingly difficult to calm down and to reduce tempo," he said two months before his death.

Germany's Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs, under Ursula von der Leyen, has now banned its managers from emailing and calling employees after hours unless there's an emergency. And some German business leaders are taking a close look at ways they can increase their companies' productivity and creativity while also boosting their employees' well-being. As a Volkswagen spokesman said about the company's after-hours BlackBerry ban, VW "wanted to take a preventative approach to tackling the issue" of the increasingly blurred line between work and home life.

After all, Germans came up with the fabulous concept of Gemütlichkeit, another German word that doesn't really translate into English but captures a state of coziness, intimacy and an unhurried tempo that we so desperately need in modern life. Indeed, the underlying idea is so universal that the city of Jefferson, Wis., proudly uses "The Gemütlichkeit City" as its motto.

HuffPost Deutschland is launching at a time of transition and disruption in the German media. Blogging is still in its early stages here, which means the opportunities for growth are tremendous for HuffPost, which is a media hybrid -- a combination of a journalistic outlet that last year won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigative reporting and a powerful platform bringing thousands of voices that otherwise would not have a platform into the global conversation. Our goal is not just to be telling the most important stories but to be helping the people of Germany tell their stories themselves -- in words, in pictures, and in video.

At the same time, we are having a lunch in partnership with DLD Women and a panel discussion about the Third Metric -- organized by my great friend, DLD Media managing director Steffi Czerny -- where we will be discussing ways to redefine success and combat burnout. Our panelists include Kristin Rübesamen, editor-in-chief of the website Yoga Easy; Denice Kronau, the Chief Diversity Officer of Siemens AG, whose own burnout experience in 2002 led her to take a sabbatical and reconsider her priorities; Till Roenneberg, a biology professor at Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians University whose areas of research include circadian rhythms and the concept of "social jet lag"; and Saskia Thais Bruysten, who, as CEO of Yunus Social Business, is a leader in urging businesses to create social good even as they pursue profits.

It has been such a pleasure working with our partners at Tomorrow Focus, especially board member Christoph Schuh, managing director Oliver Eckert, and Focus Online editor-in-chief Daniel Stiel. HuffPost Deutschland's editor-in-chief is Sebastian Matthes, who most recently led science and technology coverage at the German business news magazine Wirtschaftswoche, and whose work has also appeared in the German edition of the Financial Times and WiWo Green ("Think Green"), the online platform he founded last year to explore his passions for the environment and sustainability. Our team, in addition to Cherno and Sebastian, includes front page editor Danuta Szarek; blog editor Axel Schoen; associate editors Jan David Sutthoff, Tobias Fuelbeck, Sabrina Hoffmann and Susanne Klaiber; social media editor Miriam Held; and fellows Ginalouisa Metzler, Christoph Asche and Marcel Bohnensteffen.

Our lineup of bloggers for launch day includes Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Ursula von der Leyen, who writes on the demographic shifts in German society and the urgency of recalibrating to account for them; founder and chairman of Berggruen Holdings Nicolas Berggruen, on the consequences of austerity; TV/radio host, actress and author Miriam Pielhau, on the various types of new beginnings in life, both desired changes and those out of our control; and Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany Nikolaus Schneider, discussing the human rights surrounding the death penalty on World Day Against the Death Penalty.

We are delighted to welcome Germany to the HuffPost family. As always, please use the comments section to let us know what you think.