Aug 11, 2023

Unmasking the workplace wellness fad: let's get real about employee wellbeing

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Picture this: a flood of workplace wellness initiatives that promise rainbows and unicorns for employees' wellbeing. But when you scratch the surface and dig a little, you realise it’s all just a colourful facade.

Decoding organisational wellbeing washing

Wellbeing washing creates an illusion of a healthy lifestyle, often without truly embracing the underlying principles, prioritising aesthetics and superficiality over substance. This can lead to an emphasis on external validation and comparison, rather than focusing on internal wellbeing and personal growth.

Imagine a giant wellbeing checkbox that some organisations just want to tick off to look good. They splash a few feel-good activities here and there without diving into the deeper waters. It's like slapping a band-aid on a broken leg (not very effective!). And to top it off, you’ll probably notice a one-size-fits-all approach. Some organisations jump on the latest trends without considering what their unique employees really need. 

Cookie-cutter solutions won’t cut it here. Authentic self-care requires consistency, patience, and effort. In contrast, wellbeing washing seeks quick fixes and immediate gratification, pursuing fleeting trends, without the reflection needed for genuine wellbeing.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

When employee wellbeing becomes a PR stunt

Appearances can be deceiving. Some companies treat wellbeing initiatives like shiny trophies to boost their public image. But most employees aren't fooled; they can sniff out insincerity like a bloodhound. When wellbeing is just a PR stunt, trust and engagement take a nosedive.

The rise of wellbeing washing has created a lucrative market for wellness products and services that may not deliver on their promises. Companies capitalise on the trend, promoting products as essential tools for self-care, even if they lack efficacy or suitability. And some purely succumb to empty wellness initiatives through a lack of research and self-education.

Breaking free from the fluff

Authentic organisational wellbeing is all about a genuine commitment to employee happiness, so you need to embrace the whole package - physical, mental, and emotional - in a way that suits your unique team. I recommend engaging in deep self-reflection to identify your genuine needs and aspirations when it comes to wellbeing. Question your motivations and intentions behind adopting wellness practices: are you seeking true self-care that actually resonates?

Top tip

Invest in programs that truly make a difference in the long run. Encourage a work-life balance, promote skill development and lead from the front. Prioritise healthy work practises yourself, and make sure they are visible.

Educate yourself about wellness-related products and services and be wary of exaggerated claims and marketing gimmicks. Take the time to research and understand the science behind wellness practices, and then focus on building genuine connections with communities and individuals. And listen up, hold employee feedback sessions, conduct surveys, and really hear their voices to discover what actually matters to them.

Purposeful wellbeing initiatives 

Swap smoothies for camaraderie 

Sometimes, the team just want to blow off steam and have a drink – whether it's a refreshing beer or a chilled soft one, it's an opportunity to unwind and socialise with the wider team away from the workplace. Because fostering wellbeing isn't just about nourishing the body, but also nurturing the bonds that make our team a tight-knit community.

Trendy perks

Decked out the office with gaming rooms, massages, and a nap pod? Instead, consider fostering truly flexible work arrangements that allow employees to find their own perfect work-life balance. Different things work for different people here, so be prepared to be open to genuinely impactful conversations.

Token mental health days 

It's as if we can beat stress like it's a video game - just press "pause" for a day and start fresh. Alternatively, pay attention to workload, communication, and stress-reduction strategies that promote sustained wellbeing. Be available and receptive to honest conversations and feedback, like hosting open floor discussions about key topics like burnout.

Cherry-picking wellbeing metrics

If you’re counting the number of voucher downloads and inflating your employee happiness ratings, I’d recommend instead focusing on holistic indicators like employee feedback, engagement surveys, and long-term wellness program outcomes. After all, genuine wellbeing goes beyond mere numbers and reflects the overall health of your workplace culture.

Remember, the key to avoiding wellbeing washing is to focus on genuine and holistic employee wellbeing, involving employees in the process, and consistently evaluating the effectiveness of wellbeing programs to ensure they address real needs and concerns.

At ASquared, we don't just chase wellness trends – we try to embrace a holistic approach to create a thriving work environment. Our commitment goes beyond the surface, focusing on meaningful strategies that enrich the lives of our team members.

Through initiatives like providing Spill, our confidential mental health support platform, we ensure that our employees have a safe and supportive space to address their wellbeing concerns. 

We understand that wellbeing is a personalised journey, which is why we provide each employee with a £20 monthly wellbeing allowance. This allowance is a tangible investment in our team's health and happiness, empowering them to choose from a wide range of options – whether it's wellness apps, gym memberships, yoga classes, or any other wellbeing activity that resonates with them.

Our monthly Culture Workshops are designed to empower open conversations and equip our team with the tools to enhance their physical and mental wellness.

But we don't just stop there. Our all-company TownSquared gatherings serve as a platform to collectively delve into these vital topics. We're not here to assume what our team needs – we actively involve them, encouraging their suggestions and insights to guide our wellbeing endeavours.

Welcome to ASquared – where wellbeing is more than a checkbox; it's a way of life, co-created by our remarkable team.

Angie is an experienced, passionate and award-winning people professional. She is dedicated to promoting employee wellbeing and fostering a positive and inclusive work environment. Angie is a panel speaker at the MAD World Summit in October where she’ll be talking about “Wellbeing washing - what it is, why it matters and how to stop it sabotaging your progress”