24. October 2023

Why is everyone talking about… wellbeing washing?

Personio Pulse: This Week in HR - 2

Welcome to Personio Pulse: This Week in HR, where each week we take a look at the latest trends in the world of work, what you need to know about them and what they mean for you as an HR professional. 

This week we’re talking about the problem of wellbeing washing and what it could mean for your HR team.

What you need to know

Would you sacrifice work-life balance for an extremely well paid job? While 93% of employees consider wellbeing to be as important as salary, recent research revealed that 90% of employees do not believe their employer when they discuss wellbeing initiatives, insinuating that many may be guilty of ‘wellbeing washing’.

Examples might include a company-wide session about the importance of taking breaks scheduled during lunchtime or performative posts from the company on social media. The same research also found that a fifth of FTSE 100 companies post about mental health only on awareness days (such as World Mental Health Day) and make no reference to it for the rest of the year.

What others are saying about it 

“One of the biggest issues we’ve found is that employers don’t really know how their employees feel or what it is they need. Asking, not just guessing, is always the first step to creating a workplace wellbeing strategy that actually works”, says stress and burnout expert Bex Spiller

Her advice? “One of the most important points is to give your employees the time to take part in whatever new wellbeing programs you bring in - and that doesn’t mean during their lunch break. Start fostering a culture of wellbeing in the organisation with dedicated time for your teams to take care of themselves.”

She adds: ”Consider how you can tailor your wellbeing offerings to as many people as possible and don’t just assume everyone’s a fan of meditation or yoga apps.”

What that means for you

There are a few key considerations needed to build out a wellbeing offering that your employees really believe and partake in:

  • Listen to what your employees really want - launch surveys, enable always-on suggestion collection and replace ‘perks’ that aren’t used with new options.

  • Ensure your leaders follow by example: Create clear rules about contact out of hours and when on leave and identify and discourage when this isn’t respected.

  • As Bex suggests, carve out time for your employees to actually engage with wellbeing initiatives – taking part in a company-organised wellbeing activity shouldn’t mean they need to skip lunch or work late to make up for it.

What else should I read? 

That's all for this week's edition of Personio Pulse: This Week in HR. Check back next week as we continue to dissect the latest trends impacting the ways we work. 

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Hannah Popham

Hannah Popham

Hannah is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Personio. She loves writing about the ever-changing ways that we work and how they intersect with our lives outside work.

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