The secrets to avoiding ‘wellbeing washing’

For many of us, work is one of the biggest factors in our general health and mood. When it’s going well it’s great – creative, lucrative, sociable, all the good things. But when it’s not, we can feel overloaded and stressed.

Post Covid, many companies are making an effort to show they care. Summer hours, working from home, lunchtime yoga classes – and stats suggest that employees value these initiatives. IWG’s Hybrid Talent Magnet study found that 88% of HR executives believed they would reduce staff turnover if they offered more appealing wellness benefits. Even more strikingly, more than two-thirds (68%) have experienced applicants turning down a job because of a lack of such benefits.

Still, to create a genuinely healthy work environment, business leaders need to deliver more than surface-level perks. A term gaining momentum in the corporate lexicon is ‘wellbeing washing’, referring to companies that seem to champion employee wellbeing but lack substantial, action-oriented plans to back it up. In fact, a survey by Claro Wellbeing suggests that 38% of employees are sceptical about their employer’s commitment to real wellness initiatives. So, what’s the best way for businesses to demonstrate that they’re serious about wellbeing? The answer lies in hybrid working.

IWG’s research is part of a growing body of evidence that flexible, hybrid work models can directly boost employee happiness, productivity, and overall wellbeing. Unlike superficial wellness initiatives, hybrid working represents a fundamental shift in work culture.

Genuine commitments

A report by McKinsey Health found that there has been “unprecedented investment” in employee mental health and wellbeing over the past three years. This includes efforts like “meditation app subscriptions, well-being days, and training on time management and productivity.”

But while these are commendable, even laudable actions, genuine commitment to employee wellbeing involves addressing more systemic issues. Workplace burnout often stems from factors such as overload, lack of support, and the need for greater work-life balance. Hybrid working can help address these concerns.

According to IWG’s Hybrid & Healthy study, hybrid workers are healthier, happier and more productive as a result of working closer to home. The average hybrid worker is now getting 4.7 hours of exercise a week, compared to 3.4 hours before the pandemic. They’re sleeping longer (the equivalent of three days’ worth of extra sleep a year) because they don’t have those long commutes, and they have more time to cook nutritious meals during the week.

There are other upsides too, like the ability to work from an office that suits personal preferences, whether that’s in location, design or the type of meeting rooms available, and the ability to collaborate effectively in flexible and modern meeting spaces.

The bottom line

Happy, well-slept, well-fed staff, who enjoy the freedom to choose how they work, are always going to be more productive. According to Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom, this productivity increase can be as much as 3-4%, which adds up significantly over time. Plus, hybrid working can save organisations more than $11,000 per employee a year on average, as shown by Global Workplace Analytics. Investing in this kind of working model isn’t just about avoiding ‘wellbeing washing’ — it’s a smart business move. After all, employers can expect a return as high as $5 for every $1 spent on health and wellness initiatives like this, according to Deloitte. So, the advantages are mutual and considerable. Those added extras – the apps, the yoga, the away days – can be the cherry on top.

If you are seeking a working environment to lift your team’s wellbeing, check out our products and services.

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