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  • Writer's pictureJay Thandi

The rise of "Wellbeing Washing"

Wellbeing, diversity and inclusion are all hot topics, and something companies are often seen to advertise and promote. But amidst a lot of positive and thoughtful changes, there has also been a rise in “wellbeing washing”.

What is “wellbeing washing”?

"Wellbeing washing" is a term used to describe when companies claim to prioritize employee or customer well-being without actually implementing substantial changes or improvements in that area. It's similar to the concept of "greenwashing," where companies claim to be environmentally friendly without actually taking concrete steps to reduce their environmental impact.

“Wellbeing washing” can involve making surface-level changes, such as offering wellness programs or creating marketing campaigns that emphasize well-being without addressing the underlying issues that impact employee or customer well-being. For example, a company might offer a meditation program for employees to reduce stress levels, but at the same time, they could be overworking employees, creating a toxic work environment, or offering inadequate compensation and benefits.

The term "wellbeing washing" highlights the need for companies to be genuine in their efforts to promote well-being and to back up their claims with concrete actions. Companies that engage in wellbeing washing risk damaging their reputation and losing the trust of their employees and customers.

But why would companies and businesses do this?

Companies engage in "wellbeing washing" for a variety of reasons, including their public

perception and their recruitment efforts. They may be concerned about their public image

and believe that emphasizing their commitment to employee or customer well-being will

improve their reputation. By promoting their well-being initiatives, companies may hope to be viewed as socially responsible and caring.

Companies may also use wellbeing initiatives as a way to attract and retain talented employees. In a competitive job market, companies may see wellness programs and other well-being initiatives as a way to differentiate themselves from other employers and create a more desirable work environment.

However, it's important to note that engaging in "wellbeing washing" can ultimately be counterproductive for companies if they don't follow through on their promises and take real action to improve employee and customer well-being. In the long run, genuine commitment to well-being is more likely to lead to positive outcomes for both the company and its stakeholders.

So how can candidates avoid “wellbeing washing”?

Do your research! You can research the company's reputation and track record regarding employee well-being, and check online reviews and ratings from current and former employees. Have a look for news articles or other sources of information that may shed light on the company's culture and practices.

We also advise candidates to ask questions – interviews should be a two way process. As much as interviews are an opportunity for employers to assess whether a candidate is right for their organisation, they are also an opportunity for candidates to assess whether an employer or organisation is the right environment for them. During the interview process, try to ask specific questions about the company's well-being initiatives, such as what programs are offered, how they are implemented, and how success is measured. Asking for examples of how the company has improved employee well-being in the past can also be helpful.

Transparency is a also a great indicator of intentions - genuine well-being initiatives are typically transparent and clearly communicated to employees. Candidates can look for evidence that the company values employee feedback and involves employees in the development and implementation of well-being initiatives.

And last but not least – trust your gut! Trust their instincts and pay attention to any red flags or warning signs that a company may not be genuinely committed to employee well-being. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is!


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