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Well-being Washing

Some organizations don’t walk the walk when it comes to their mental health initiatives.

By Nancy Alsaberi

A focus on workplace well-being has emerged in the last few years, with the rise of trends like quiet quitting and The Great Resignation. These trends have brought the issue of workplace well-being into the limelight, pushing businesses to address social pressures, even if only keeping up appearances.

Well-being washing occurs when a company outwardly champions mental health but is not actually putting the support into practice internally. It’s been referred to as the “greenwashing of mental health,” where brands are falsely supportive of mental health rather than environmental initiatives. The term has gained traction in the last few months, as employees are becoming more aware of the phenomenon in their workplaces.

Brands and businesses can get swept up in well-being washing for a variety of reasons. First, it’s a way of appearing socially responsible and caring of employees, without senior leaders needing to take the time and utilize their resources to understand the needs of employees or change the culture at work. This can enhance their reputation and attract potential new employees who seek this type of appealing culture. 

Some organizations may make a point of publicly announcing their commitment to employee well-being but end up not following through with the plans. This can leave employees feeling disillusioned and questioning the sincerity of their company’s intentions. 

Well-being washing can also give brands a competitive advantage and can be used as a marketing tool to attract customers or investors. However, these token gestures can be seen as disingenuous and opportunistic if they are discovered to be superficial. 

For new and existing businesses, committing to mental health initiatives shouldn’t just be a trend; it is a strategic imperative. It enhances employee well-being, reduces turnover, and reinforces brand authenticity. Companies that genuinely prioritize mental health create a workplace where employees can thrive, which, in turn, contributes to improved productivity and reduced costs. 

Nancy Alsaberi is head of people at Business Name Generator 

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