Wellbeing Washing and Its Impact on Employee Engagement

In the pursuit of fostering a healthy work environment, organizations often tout wellness initiatives such as lunchtime yoga, gym memberships, and free fruit in the office. While these perks may seem indicative of a robust workplace wellness strategy, a closer look reveals a darker reality – a phenomenon known as “wellbeing washing.”

Let’s reconsider the concept of wellbeing washing, its impact on employee engagement, and the significance of authentic commitment to employee health.

Understanding Wellbeing Washing

Wellbeing washing is the act of organizations outwardly endorsing mental health initiatives without genuinely supporting their workforce internally. It involves offering superficial wellbeing tactics that mask underlying issues within the workplace, such as excessive workloads, long hours, and burnout. The consequences of wellbeing washing are far-reaching and can lead to increased employee burnout, disengagement, high turnover, low productivity, and damaged trust and reputation.

Recent studies, including the 2022 Claro Wellbeing study, shed light on the prevalence of wellbeing washing. A significant portion of businesses, approximately one-third, has been found guilty of this practice. Notably, despite 70% of employers commemorating mental health awareness days, only 36% follow through with meaningful wellbeing support for their employees. Moreover, a survey by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health revealed that 51% of employees perceive wellbeing washing as a significant problem in their workplace.

How Can HR Demonstrate Commitment to Wellbeing?

Start with the basics: To ensure your company avoids wellbeing washing, it’s crucial for HR professionals to collaborate with employers in implementing initiatives that genuinely impact employees’ lives. This involves providing competitive salaries, workplace flexibility, generous parental leave, mental health support, and more.

Utilize surveys and employee feedback: HR can conduct a needs assessment to understand employees’ genuine wellbeing concerns. Armed with this information, initiatives can be introduced to enhance employee well-being. Regularly utilizing metrics and employee feedback helps assess the effectiveness of wellbeing initiatives and make adjustments as needed.

Develop DEI proficiency: According to a recent Forbes article, employees in non-inclusive work environments face a higher risk of encountering unconscious bias, microaggressions, and other factors that negatively affect their mental well-being. Employees who feel excluded are also less likely to seek help or request mental health accommodations. Therefore, fostering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) proficiency is essential in promoting a supportive and inclusive workplace.

Above all, prioritize authentic connections with individuals. If your goal is to enhance employee engagement, avoid involvement in superficial initiatives related to employee wellbeing and instead, take concrete and sincere actions.

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