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How Can Employers Prevent Wellbeing Washing?

Picture this: You are a new employee at a top organization. During onboarding meetings, you are excited to learn about the many initiatives that your company promotes around employee wellbeing. And further, you are grateful for the robust benefits package that your new employer offers, which includes support for your growing family.

Fast-forward six months: You feel overworked, stressed out, and have not had the chance to attend a wellbeing webinar or download the movement tracker that your company offers. On top of that, you are struggling with navigating your healthcare offerings. The promise of being a part of an organization that truly prioritizes its employees seems to be in the rearview.

Unfortunately, this experience is not uncommon.

What is Wellbeing Washing?

Many organizations have high hopes of building an organizational culture that promotes a sense of belonging and that motivates employees to work hard. Yet, at the end of the day, a focus on business performance and the bottom line outweighs efforts to care for employee wellbeing. Even well-intended efforts by innovative employers fall flat without the strategy and infrastructure to support these initiatives. When organizations promote a culture of care and do not back it up with anything tangible, employees are left feeling unsupported and tend to burn out much faster.

This concept, labeled by some as Wellbeing Washing, is really just a fancy term for ‘not putting your money where your mouth is.’

The reality is, organizations today are overwhelmed with multiple business priorities… from business performance, to navigating economic shifts, to investing in employee benefits--the modern workforce is requiring much more of businesses. And while organizations are under ever-growing pressure to support their employee populations, they are having to do so with less financial means, often causing them to drop the ball when it comes to attractive and meaningful benefits and resources. Lack of follow-through to back up organizational claims is costing employers when it comes to attraction and retention of employees.

Doing the right thing in business has long been an optional moral imperative; one that undoubtedly creates conflict for leaders when considering both the financial impacts of decisions on the performance of their business and what is best for their people. Yet gone are the days of employers choosing whether to invest in mental health and wellbeing offerings for their employees. Higher levels of employee wellbeing are inextricably linked to healthier, happier and better-performing employees.

Even more than the positive impacts that high levels of employee wellbeing can have on performance, recent studies show the negative impact of leaving the problem unaddressed: when businesses fail to invest in employee mental health and wellbeing, they pay the price in lost productivity and absorbent medical spend.

As organizations rise to meet the challenges of an evolving workforce, it is time for employers to step up. The good news is, employer efforts can produce a win-win scenario: by investing in the wellbeing of their people, their people will become more productive, and in turn, business performance will be boosted.

Looking for more ways to enhance the employee experience and increase engagement? Read: Job Crafting - It’s Impacting Your Culture and Employee Performance, and You May Not Even Know It.