The Danger of Wellbeing Washing in the Post-COVID Business World
3 Minute Read
3 Minute Read

In the post-COVID world, businesses are under increasing pressure to prioritise employee wellbeing. However, some are guilty of “wellbeing washing” – superficial or insincere promotion of wellness or wellbeing without actually addressing the underlying issues or concerns. This blog post examines the dangers of wellbeing washing and suggests strategies for promoting genuine employee wellbeing.

What Is Wellbeing Washing?

Wellbeing washing refers to the provision of “token gestures” towards self-care or mindfulness without taking substantive action to address the root causes of stress or anxiety. For example, a business might promote a wellness program or initiative as a PR strategy to improve their image or to try to promote recruitment or retention. However, in doing so, the business is failing to actually prioritise the health and wellbeing of employees. Common offerings such as gym memberships, free food, yoga or circulating pamphlets on stress may well appear proactive, but they often do little to address the core issues.

What Can Companies Do?

To promote genuine employee wellbeing, businesses need to prioritise culture change and create an environment where open and honest conversations can happen. This includes allowing time for employees to make the most of the programs that are offered. Asking staff to give up their lunch break or stay behind after work for sessions doesn’t really promote work-life balance or prioritise it as important at work.

It is also important to recognise that there isn’t a “quick fix” to promoting employee wellbeing. Culture takes time to build and sustain. As a starting point, businesses need to listen to their employees and address their concerns. When you listen to employees but don’t do anything about it, you can damage any trust or support that you may ultimately need for any change that you do decide to implement.

To health check your company, you should have managers checking in on their teams and direct reports to see if their task load is reasonable. If not, something needs to be done about it. People shouldn’t be regularly working evenings, weekends and through their lunch hours. They shouldn’t be afraid to be honest or talk about how they feel about work. Staff should not be complaining about being stressed, and if they are, it should be reflected in sickness absence or issues with staff turnover. Flexible working should be available and actually implemented, and the boundaries of employees should be respected. They should not be receiving emails at 2 am.

Are you ready to become your workplace hero?

Employee wellbeing should not just be a box-ticking exercise or recognised on World Mental Health Day. It needs to be embedded into the culture and a priority for the business. Wellbeing washing is a dangerous practice that undermines the health and wellbeing of employees. By prioritising culture change, creating an environment for open and honest conversations, and genuinely listening to employees, businesses can promote genuine employee wellbeing and increase staff retention while reducing turnover costs.

If you want help on how to avoid wellbeing washing and conduct a health check to take better care of your staff, contact us today.