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Is Your Business Guilty of Well-being Washing?

In the aftermath of the global pandemic, businesses worldwide are navigating the complexities of a workforce that has undergone profound…

Is Your Business Guilty of Well-being Washing?

4th March 2024

Wellbeing office

By Michael Doolin, Group Managing Director of Clover HR

In the aftermath of the global pandemic, businesses worldwide are navigating the complexities of a workforce that has undergone profound transformations. While the swift return to pre-pandemic work conditions may seem like a logical step, the reality is that the employees stepping back into these offices are not the same as before.

The seismic shifts in work dynamics, the prolonged period of remote work, and the collective experiences of a challenging era have not only had a profound impact on the mindset of the workforce but also on the employment engagement policies of businesses.

This is evidenced by Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report which revealed that stress among the global workforce has surged to unprecedented levels this year, surpassing even the heights reached during the tumultuous pandemic era. 

That is why many businesses have introduced well-being policies and initiatives, so as to enhance the overall quality of life for their employees. While on the surface, this may appear to be a commendable effort, demonstrating a commitment to the well-being of their staff – a closer examination has revealed that many businesses are guilty of ‘well-being washing’.

What is well-being washing?

Well-being washing is a term used when businesses simply ‘rubber stamp’ well-being initiatives without the necessary dedication, follow-through, or true understanding of how to create a thriving and supportive work environment.

A recent study by Claro Wellbeing found that more than one in three (35%) of businesses are wellbeing-washing. These businesses were reported as doing things such as sharing social media posts, holding charity bake sales and conducting sponsored walks to raise awareness of mental health conditions. Although these initiatives may appear to be an effective way of supporting employee well-being to an audience, these businesses do not actually provide much real support to their employees for improving their well-being. This can lead to serious issues such as a high turnover rate, lack of motivation and a rise in anxiety and stress among the workforce.

To avoid these pitfalls and truly champion employee well-being, businesses must take concrete steps and make genuine commitments to improve employee well-being.

Communication and understanding

Effective communication is key to building a workplace culture that genuinely prioritises employees’ needs, wants, and well-being.

In findings supplied by Expert Market, 86% of employees reported that the lack of effective collaboration and communication was a leading contributor to workplace failures. It also reflected that improved internal communication can advance organisational productivity by as much as 25%.

By holding regular check-in sessions with employees, businesses provide a valuable platform for open and honest dialogue, allowing employers to gain insights into the challenges and aspirations of their workforce. These sessions create a space for employees to express their concerns, share feedback, and discuss their overall well-being.

Moreover, incorporating career development talks into the communication strategy demonstrates a commitment to the long-term growth and fulfilment of employees. By understanding individual career goals and providing resources for professional development, businesses can align their well-being initiatives with the aspirations of their workforce, fostering a sense of purpose and investment in their employees’ overall quality of life.

This proactive and empathetic approach not only helps in avoiding the pitfalls of well-being washing but also contributes to the establishment of a workplace environment where employees feel valued, supported, and motivated to perform.

Keep it flexible.

In today’s dynamic work landscape, where remote and hybrid work models have become the new ‘norm’, the need and expectation for flexibility are more pronounced than ever.

According to the CIPD, 4% of employees state that they have left a job in the last year due to a lack of flexibility, and a further 9% have changed their careers/professions, specifically due to a lack of flexible working. The research also indicated that homeworking and hybrid working employees reported a 41% increase in employee well-being.

These statistics identify a link between flexibility and tangible benefits for businesses such as higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, and enhanced employee retention.  Allowing employees to tailor their work schedules, providing options for remote work, and accommodating personal needs such as family arrangements, can be essential for reducing stress, facilitating productivity and improving work-life balance.

Resources and support

A study by employee health and wellbeing platform Champion Health found that 60% of employees are experiencing anxiety in the workplace, and an additional 1 in 4 employees met the criteria for ‘clinically relevant symptoms’ of depression and would benefit from support from a qualified mental health professional.

While these findings are concerning, there are initiatives that businesses can utilise to support their employees. One such initiative is the inclusion of a mental health representative in the team— a dedicated individual trained to offer support, guidance, and resources for mental health challenges.  This representative serves as a crucial link between employees and available mental health services, fostering an environment where seeking help is destigmatised.

Additionally, offering courses and training programs further demonstrates a commitment to employee development. These can range from skill-specific training to broader topics like stress management or work-life balance. By investing in such resources, businesses can empower their workforce to continually learn and grow, promoting not only professional development but also enhancing overall well-being.

Is well-being here to stay?

The surge in employee wellbeing consciousness marks a pivotal moment for businesses, urging a shift in their approach to workforce management. The experiences of the past few years have reshaped the expectations and priorities of employees, emphasising the need for businesses to embrace genuine and lasting strategies for employee well-being.

It is not enough for businesses to merely ride the wave of this newfound consciousness; they must commit to tangible actions that address the multifaceted needs of their employees. As we navigate the post-pandemic era, the importance of distinguishing between authentic commitment and mere ‘well-being washing’ cannot be overstated.

Businesses that invest in transparent communication, tailored support systems and initiatives are poised not only to attract and retain top talent but also to foster a workplace where the well-being of their team is a cornerstone of success.

Categories: Advice, Articles

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