Chris Raven, CEO at award-winning business growth agency, Heur, explains what wellbeing-washing is and how managers and business owners can effectively utilise it.

In the wake of the pandemic, workplaces are increasingly focusing on employee mental health, moving beyond traditional perks like Pizza Fridays and embracing mental health and well-being benefits. 

A study by Revelio Labs in 2023 highlighted a significant increase in job postings in the U.S. that advertised mental health benefits since 2020. However, recent research from Oxford University casts doubt on the effectiveness of these initiatives. The study revealed that workers utilizing wellness offerings reported no significant improvement in their health and well-being compared to those who didn't use such services. This raises a crucial question: are these incentives genuinely effective, or are workplaces falling victim to "wellbeing-washing"?

Chris Raven, CEO at Heur, an award-winning business growth agency, sheds light on the concept of wellbeing-washing. Drawing parallels with greenwashing, Raven explains:

"Wellbeing-washing boils down to businesses talking the talk but not walking the walk." 

Companies engaging in wellbeing-washing often showcase mental health benefits prominently during the hiring process but fail to deliver on these promises post-employment. This may involve offering poorly planned or ineffective mental health programs, creating a gap between the company's rhetoric and actual implementation.

Wellbeing Washing: Ensuring mental wellbeing at workplace

Key examples of wellbeing-washing include participating in social media trends like Blue Monday, posting about mental health awareness without addressing physical workplace problems, and employing superficial tactics such as office posters, mass Slack messages, or mental health fundraisers. Raven emphasizes that a one-size-fits-all approach, including generic apps and wishy-washy programs, often yields little to no benefit for employees.

Instead, Raven suggests practical alternatives for managers and business owners. Addressing one of the significant stressors in employees' lives, wages and perceived value, he recommends redirecting resources from mental health app subscriptions to bonuses or increased pay. Regular assessments can gauge the effectiveness of initiatives like mental health apps or the value employees place on perks like free lunches.

To combat burnout and feelings of isolation, fostering a flexible work environment is crucial. Offering designated mental health days or the option to work from home creates a space where employees feel supported. Raven advises against praising overwork and encourages setting strict log-off times, emphasizing the importance of taking time off.

In the quest to avoid wellbeing-washing, honesty is paramount. Instead of making grand promises, businesses should communicate honestly about the mental health support they can provide and actively seek employee input on improvement strategies. By adopting a holistic approach, businesses can genuinely prioritize employee wellbeing.

Heur: Transforming D2C Brands

Founded by Chris Nawrocki and Chris Raven and located in London and York, Heur works with businesses and founders both nationwide and internationally to help scale their D2C brands, offering services such as fractional leadership, holistic growth strategy, managed audits and growth mapping.

The agency has helped brands such as Drakes, Fox Head Clothing and Jaded London, and many more since opening their doors in 2019. 

Heur, the 2023 winners of the UK Business Awards' 'Best Disruptive Business Model' and 'Best Small Agency of the Year' at the 2023 Global Agency Awards, aligns with Chris Raven's belief in a comprehensive approach to business and people management.