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What is Wellbeing Washing?

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

What is wellbeing washing?

What is well-being washing?

In recent years, the focus on employee well-being has gained significant attention, with organisations recognising the importance of creating a healthy and supportive work environment for their employees.

Unfortunately, a lot of us have worked in places that really don't care about their people. We may have worked for companies that say they care about their people, regularly posting externally about wellbeing initiatives but really they think nothing of loading your workload so high that you're super stressed.

Essentially, well-being washing means having superficial well-being strategies for employees, talking a lot about well-being and not actually doing anything about it in practice. When wellbeing washing occurs, wellbeing initiatives can be seen to be insincere or superficial leading to a number of negative responses from employees. A comical example can be seen in a TikTok video by Ali Woods where HR enter an office with lots of stressed employees carrying a heavy workload. Despite employees suggesting being given less work, implementing a 4-day week, being given pay rises, getting more staff to help with the workload and longer lunch breaks or extra holidays they're told what will be implemented to support them is a mental health webinar, which if they're busy they can skip and work through lunch instead. You can see the video here;

Why even talk about well-being washing?

According to a recent survey carried out by Claro Wellbeing, over two-thirds of those surveyed were committing well-being washing. Clearly, we all know how important employee well-being is and how important it also is to have an authentic approach to ensuring employees are healthy in the workplace.

What are some signs of well-being washing?

  1. Superficial Initiatives: Companies engaged in employee wellbeing washing may promote activities such as yoga classes, wellness programs but fail to address fundamental issues like heavy workloads, poor management practices, or lack of work-life balance a bit like in the TikTok examples above.

  2. Lack of Accountability: Organisations that engage in well-being washing may fail to set measurable goals or track the effectiveness of their initiatives. They often prioritise appearance over substance and do not invest in employee feedback mechanisms or check to see the real impact of their actions.

  3. Lack of Leadership Support: When senior leadership fails to actively participate or genuinely support employee wellbeing initiatives, it sends a clear message that such efforts are not a priority for the company and will most likely lead to employees disengaging from such activities. Leading from the top is always super important.

How can my business avoid well-being washing?

1. Establish a well-being strategy that works for your business and your people

Having an approach to well-being that works for your business and your people doesn't necessarily mean you have to be doing the same things as everyone else. Talk to your people to get a feel for what would support them, what's realistic and what you can do in practice and build up some realistic actions that can help improve employee well-being. It's great to be able to look to others for inspiration but remember that people are different and what works for one organisation might not be what another needs.

2. Authentic Awareness Days

Awareness days are great, and much needed, but don't let your efforts to support employee wellbeing only occur or be centred around these days. Keep employee well-being in mind at all times.

3. Carry out a stress risk analysis

Take some time to really understand what's stressing out your employees, and affecting their well-being, and what you can practically do to combat this. The HSE have a super simple template that you can access here;

4. Communicate what you're doing and seek feedback

Make sure you let your employees know what you're doing. Sometimes well-being initiatives can fall flat because employees don't know about them or they're poorly planned. Make sure it's clear what you're doing when and don't be afraid to get feedback on your efforts, it's all an opportunity to improve and make things even better next time.

5. Get some expert help

If all of this is brand new to you and you're not sure where to start, get some expert help with your well-being initiatives to make sure they're impactful and resonate with your business.

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  • All information within the post is provided for guidance only; always seek your own legal advice.

  • The information with this post was correct at the time of publishing, March 2023 but may be subject to change.


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