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Mind the wellbeing gap: the rise of wellbeing washing in the workplace

Posted by Ann Caluori | Mon, 12/12/2022 - 10:47


Guest blog by Stacey Lowman, Head of Employee Wellbeing at Claro Wellbeing


In the workplace, “wellbeing washing” is when businesses publicly advocate for employee wellbeing and good mental health support without backing it up with tangible benefits for their workforce. In other words, all talk, no action.


We have all seen organisations share social media posts or hold charity fundraising events in recognition of mental health but fail to provide initiatives, benefits, or support mechanisms to prioritise their own employees’ wellbeing. This can include mental, physical, and financial wellbeing.


We recently conducted some research following World Mental Health Day on the 10th October which found that one in three businesses are wellbeing washing. Seven in 10 workplaces publicly acknowledge mental health awareness days - twice the number of companies that provide any support. And just a third of organisations’ mental health support was deemed ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by their employees, demonstrating that there is significant need to address this wellbeing gap.


Supporting employee wellbeing has never been more crucial given the current geopolitical and economic circumstances that are having a significant impact on employees’ mental health, including the cost-of-living crisis. One in two junior-level workers are concerned about their finances and 67% of all employees say that money worries impact their work.


For the most recent World Mental Health Day, one in six (15%) businesses held a bake sale or coffee morning and 13% organised a sports event. Whilst it is important to raise awareness through activities like these, employers must also provide accessible support and create an environment in which people feel comfortable sharing their experiences.


In recent years, and particularly post-pandemic, wellbeing at work has become a key focus. Employee benefits have evolved in line with this shift, with employees seeking support with things such as childcare, medical expenses and mental, physical, and financial health.


Encouragingly, our research found that almost half of businesses offer access to a helpline for wellbeing support and 44% or organisations provide the opportunity to see a counsellor. An increasing number of workplaces are also training employees to be mental health first-aiders to support colleagues. Whilst offering support for mental wellbeing is essential, organisations must also consider the increasing need for provisions to help with financial wellbeing as many struggle with the ongoing impacts of the cost-of-living crisis.


Specific financial wellbeing support, such as webinars or financial coaching, can be offered to employees to help them enhance financial confidence, better manage their money, and enable continued pursuit of goals such as buying a house, or planning for retirement, despite the current economic challenges.


Employees are facing a multitude of challenges at present, with workplaces issues such as stress, burnout, and workload likely to be exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis, energy bills rising over the winter months and staff shortages.


This means that providing support mechanisms and benefits for employees across the three wellbeing pillars mental, physical, and financial wellbeing is fundamental. Furthermore, it also has benefits for the organisation itself through increased productivity, better retention, and fewer sick days.


A comprehensive, whole organisation approach is necessary to create a working environment in which wellbeing is a top priority and it has arguably never been more important to address the wellbeing gap. It is time to cut the wellbeing washing and create real, tangible change.



     Stacey Lowman is Head of Employee

     Wellbeing at Claro Wellbeing.