Try Mind Tools for free
Get unlimited access to all our career-boosting content and member benefits with our 7-day free trial.
Join now

Sign-up to our newsletter

Subscribing to the Mind Tools newsletter will keep you up-to-date with our latest updates and newest resources.

Working on it...
Successfully subscribed to the newsletter
Sorry, something went wrong
July 25, 2023

Wellbeing Washing: Is "Wellness" Coming Out in the Wash?

Kevin Dunne

, ,

Share this post:

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, goes the old saying. But when it comes to wellbeing initiatives in the workplace, it appears that free fruit is just not cutting it. Not by a long way.

Despite the cost of poor mental health running at $1 trillion globally, according to the World Health Organization, significant numbers of businesses are not getting it done when it comes to looking after the wellbeing of their employees.

What Is Wellbeing Washing?

A recent study by Claro Wellbeing found that more than a third of employers are "wellbeing washing" – the practice of supporting mental health publicly but not supporting the workforce internally when it really comes down to it.

Claro's survey revealed that while 70 percent of workplaces celebrated mental health awareness days, only 30 percent of them actually had mental health support that was deemed good or outstanding by their employees.

Yes, it's all very well championing awareness campaigns (like Mental Health Month), but, much like the saying "a dog is not just for Christmas," wellbeing issues don't magically disappear when the event is over.

So lots of regular quizzes and games for fun, but consistently overworking people or expecting unpaid overtime is the sort of thing we’re talking about here. Table tennis and yoga, but no flexible working or employee assistance programs.

Do Businesses Really Care About Employees?

The research found that under half of businesses offered employees access to a helpline, while 44 percent offered counseling, and only 39 percent had mental health first aiders.

Digging a little deeper, the perception employees have of their employers' attempts to look after their wellbeing is even worse.

A report from global HR consultants MHR revealed that 62 percent of employees believed their employer did not care about their mental wellbeing, while 55 percent said they felt pressured to hide their mental health concerns at work. Ouch.

And in the wake of the likes of the Great Resignation and quiet quitting, it's clear that it makes business sense to take care of your workforce – or you risk retention and recruitment crises.

Or, as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development puts it, "Investing in employee wellbeing can lead to increased resilience, better employee engagement, reduced sickness absence, and higher performance and productivity."

Stay up to date, subscribe to our newsletter

Investing in Employee Wellbeing

So what should employers be providing, and what shouldn't they bother with, to avoid wellbeing washing? A recent poll by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health offered some interesting and, in some cases, controversial insights.

Examples of staff "benefits" not wanted or needed included:

  • Online "wellbeing services."
  • Employee assistance programs that focus on out-of-hours issues but don't deal with work-related matters.
  • Discounts on holidays (which are still too expensive).
  • Wellbeing walks (but with no time to go on them).
  • Fruit and ice cream.
  • Shopping discounts (but having to pay for staff parking).
  • Mental health first aid (described as a "box-ticking" exercise that can sometimes see untrained volunteers do more harm than good).

Moving on, benefits workers say they're not getting but would actually welcome included:

  • Work risk assessments for stress.
  • Access to a wider variety of healthy lifestyle classes, not just gym membership or yoga.
  • More support for women going through the menopause.
  • Better mental health support.
  • Better management.
  • Flexible working.
  • A more responsive attitude to worker surveys.

Food, if not fruit, for thought.

Further Resources

Mental Health in the Workplace
Personal Financial Stress and Wellbeing
How Happy Is Your Team Member?
What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Kevin Dunne

About the Author:

Kevin began training as a journalist on his local newspaper in 1989. He went on to spend 17 years at The Sun newspaper as a sports journalist and travel writer, and his work has been published in The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Sunday Times. He joined the Mind Tools content team in 2019 and is also a keen golfer, traveler and eater.

Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Try Mind Tools for free

Get unlimited access to all our career-boosting content and member benefits with our 7-day free trial.
Join Mind Tools for free

You may also like...

August 16, 2023

Sleeping on the Job: Can Napping at Work Boost Performance?

When your eyelids are feeling a little heavy, you might be tempted to reach for the caffeine or simply power through to the end of the day. Instead, new research suggests that napping may well have been the answer all along.


August 9, 2023

Affective Presence: How to Stop Draining Your People and Energize Them Instead!

Affective presence refers to how you make others feel in your company. Bruna Martinuzzi explores how you can boost your positive affective presence to inspire your people.

July 13, 2023

When Big Feelings Come to Work 

"It started with an ice-breaker. I found myself face-to-face with the head of the whole company. And as I started answering the question, I began to cry, right in front of him. " Melanie Bell

, , , ,

© Mind Tools Ltd 2023. All rights reserved. "Mind Tools" is a registered trademark of Mind Tools Ltd.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram