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Is Your Organization “Well-being Washing”?

I have to admit when I read the headline of this article, it was the first time I had seen or heard the term:

More than a third of businesses are ‘wellbeing washing’, study shows

I’ve heard of companies “green-washing” talking a good game about their work on climate change while also continuing to be a large contributor to it, but in the area of wellbeing, this was a new one. Except, it isn’t a new idea. This study asked employees at UK companies if the public statements about mental health and employee support match what is happening within the company itself. Many said that the public supportiveness did not match the internal work culture. That’s not anything new. I think we have all worked somewhere or have heard plenty of stories about workplaces where the public face of the company or even the internal HR face talks quite a lot about how much they focus on employee wellness but apparently, no one told the middle managers about it.

We can call it whatever you like but I suspect that we could also bring this under a wider umbrella of things that were promised during the pandemic and a worldwide labor shortage that disappeared like hotcakes the second management thought they could get away with it.

  • A focus on wellness and employee mental health? Not so much anymore.
  • Generous parental leave to improve work-life balance and family wellness? – Get rid of that.
  • Flexible work-from-home policies and remote hiring? – Starting to disappear.
  • Diversity initiatives? – At risk?

The lesson, as always, your employer is not family. Good employers will find ways to improve the lives of their workers in ways that create a positive relationship and engagement. Bad employers will do the bare minimum. When they struggle with retention and attracting talent they will roll out programs and do what they need to do. At the first sign of an economic downturn or a looser labor market, they will forget all about that and do very little to take care of their employees.

As an employee, you can only recognize the bad employers and choose to leave. If the actions don’t match leadership’s words, it’s not a good employer. If they constantly call their employees a family while cutting benefits and programs that were put in place when they were under pressure to do something about employee wellness, they never cared about wellness. They cared about appearing to care so that there wasn’t a tidal wave of people leaving.

They deserve that tidal wave to happen anyway.

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