‘Wellbeing washing’ is a recognised issue; here's how to thwart it

Nina Stephenson-Camps shares practical advice for senior leadership teams

Nina Stephenson-Camps

Founder Thrive


Wellbeing washing is a pandemic! It erodes company culture, negatively impacts employee mental health, increases burnout, impacts retention and reduces revenue. Everyone loses when wellbeing strategies are not fit for purpose.

It is actually quite simple to change - it takes a collaborative senior leadership team who are all champions of creating a culture that truly drives a solid sense of belonging. It’s a commitment. A shared vision to equip teams so they can flourish and thrive.

It’s not always easy but with the collective willingness to create positive change, by weaving the policies into the fabric of the organisation in the day-to-day, wellbeing washing can be a thing of the past.

The key is to focus on one or two key policies and do them well. This means ensuring the SLT leads by example so policies are embodied through action and words. People take more notice of what you do rather than what you say. For example, if you’re focusing on flexible working, ensure the leaders are demonstrating how this can look (it can even be as simple as an updated signature stating working hours).

People take more notice of what you do rather than what you say.

Nina Stephenson-Camps, Founder, THRIVE

Talking about it openly too helps to normalise the behaviour and weave it into the culture, making it the norm. Similarly, if you’re committing to empowering teams to take charge of their mental health, then the SLT must talk about how they are utilising the relevant program you’ve put in place. Perhaps dropping into a conversation about which approach they prefer etc.

Celebrating behaviours that cultivate the desired culture is also another helpful way to demonstrate authenticity. It might be openly acknowledging someone’s Emotional Intelligence after a tricky conversation or citing a situation where taking a different approach benefited an outcome.

The thing is that it takes honesty to truly embody authentic mental health and wellbeing policies. It requires the SLT to align with the culture they want to cultivate. This does require a significant amount of honesty. Employees can tell when a policy isn’t baked in authenticity. It’s obvious. For example, when someone asks for flexible working (based on a company policy already in place) and has it blocked. It’s clear the SLT isn't behind this policy. That sends a message not only to that employee but also to the wider business, eroding trust. The employee doesn’t feel supported, leading to resentment, impacting performance.

The behaviour of the SLT is the north star of the company culture. They set a precedent as to what is and isn’t accepted so the more the C-suite demonstrates the behaviour that reflects the policy, teams will follow suit.
It’s particularly impactful when teams are asked for feedback on a policy - they feel heard - and when an agency follows up on the feedback and demonstrates how this will be implemented. It gives assurance to teams they are valued, their opinion counts and they are heard.


Nina Stephenson-Camps is the Founder at THRIVE

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