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Wellbeing Washing: how to overcome it

The term "wellbeing washing" refers to the practice of companies promoting their commitment to the well-being of employees and the community in a superficial or deceptive way, without actually committing to improving the situation. In other words, it is an attempt to exploit the growing interest in wellness to improve corporate reputation, without making substantial changes. This phenomenon has become increasingly common, as corporate wellbeing has become an important topic for many people and organisations , but this has also led to an increase in attention towards the true effectiveness of corporate wellbeing initiatives.

We had the opportunity to discuss in a live webinar with Michela Romani, HR Business Partner at Unilever Italy & Wellbeing Country Lead to learn more about how to effectively promote well-being in the company and overcome wellbeing washing.


Attention to corporate well-being is increasing exponentially. However, how can we avoid falling into wellbeing washing dynamics?

The risk is truly lurking. Inserting "just to do" initiatives is a trend among many organizations. We need to work on it, with awareness, attention and intention: otherwise it's a flash in the pan. I have been dealing with wellbeing for several years: I realized that post-covid-19 there has been a big "boom" on the topic, which is positive because at least this area is receiving attention. On the other hand, we must be careful not to "do things just to do things" but with a reasoned and integrated strategy in the cultural context. otherwise the risk is that, once the fashion has passed, this area will pass into oblivion, bringing us back to the malaise we have experienced in past years.

Furthermore, inserting rich welfare plans is not enough. We need to work more and more on awareness. It's the first lever. The risk of wellbeing washing can be overcome first of all without ever "letting your guard down": if you have a plan that covers the whole year it does not mean that your company has good levels of well-being: it is essential to listen and be flexible because the The needs of 2020 are certainly different from those of 2024.


How do you address the issue at Unilever?

For several years now we have been listening to our people through an internal survey called "Univoice": the theme of wellbeing is a priority part of this overall index which allows us to understand which areas to intervene in. For us, well-being is a key dimension of the people strategy and requires an ad hoc budget. We also have a dedicated HR function, of which I am part, which communicates with the other HR functions precisely to guarantee the success of the initiatives. We address employee well-being holistically by approaching multiple areas of well-being. In addition to psychological well-being, we also have initiatives for physical and emotional well-being and, new for 2023, also financial well-being: an area that makes the difference and if lacking brings discontinuity and negative impacts on other areas too.

In Unilever what drives us is the purpose , for us it is the basis of everything and it is fundamental, as are the values: they guide you in moments of imbalance and disorientation, they are like a compass.


It is also essential to know how to communicate wellbeing in the company. Read Trainect's blog on effective communication strategy for corporate wellbeing!


Can you give us some more details about the Unilever Mental Health Champion program?

We have trained, locally and globally, a group of people on the topic of mental health. These people applied on a voluntary basis for their own personal purpose. During this course you are trained on some of the most common mental health pathologies, learning to recognize the first symptoms and to use appropriate language such as for anxiety, stress and depression. Awareness and knowledge are created in people so that they are more sensitive towards others , towards colleagues, learning to recognize when stress is no longer functional and there is a risk of reaching burnout, when anxiety has high levels and risks falling into attacks of panic. The figures of mental heath champions do not replace doctors, psychologists or psychotherapists but can intercept delicate situations and provide initial help, suggesting contact with specialized figures.

The objective is therefore to intercept colleagues who are experiencing moments of mental and emotional imbalance, to provide empathetic and supportive support, having learned to recognize the "first alarm bells" of psychological distress.

Trainect tools to design an effective corporate wellbeing strategy.

To avoid falling into wellbeing washing dynamics, effective tools and approaches are needed to design the culture and design the strategy. Trainect's Wellbeing Model Canvas helps HR and key stakeholders, thanks to the support of our wellbeing designers, to identify the 7 key areas for designing an effective strategy within the company context.


Do you want to design the wellbeing strategy suitable for your company?

Book a free call with our Wellbeing Designers!

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