Promoting wellness at work without falling into the well-washing trap, is it possible ?

Employees must feel motivated and stimulated in order for them to be fulfilled and effective. “Happy” employees feel valued and contribute to the success of the company.

The importance of workplace well-being

According to the Actineo Barometer of 2019, which analyzes and measures the changing lifestyles of French people at work, 50% of workers believe that the workplace has a “very important” impact on their health and 48% on their well-being. In two years, these two numbers have increased by five percent.

Happiness at work must be taken very seriously. It is not only known that occupational stress can lead to illness, but that employees who are happy at work are less likely to get sick. They also have more energy to invest in their personal lives. As a result, improving working conditions is a serious subject that is constantly discussed. It is estimated that improved working conditions could reduce health related expenses by 25%.

Therefore, companies would really  benefit from working in these conditions because when employees feel that their well-being is taken into account  they are more involved and efficient.

Employee expectations today

According to a study conducted by Opinionway for Microsoft, employees ranked the importance of various elements that contribute the most to their happiness at work.

Here is their ranking :

1. The working ambiance and relationships with their colleagues

65% of employees noted this as a priority. It is important for them to feel good around their colleagues and to have a good working atmosphere.

2. Financial Recognition

This is an important element for employees mostly because it allows for them to financially care for themselves and their families.

3. The most important for employees is the work environment

For employees, it is very important to have a pleasant working environment. A healthy work environment is very much linked to the well-being of employees. Their expectations for quality of life at work are therefore important, especially since they spend most of their days at work.

This means that their place of work must work on improving their employees quality of working life by offering things such as a gym, yoga classes, or other physical activities. Other ideas include creating a break room that allows them to step away from their busy days. These are all ways to meet a news that is already existent. Indeed, “Sleep has become a real problem, especially since almost all employees who report having a sleep disorder (30%) feel that this has an impact on their work.”, according to Anne-Sophie Godon – Innovation Director of Malakoff Médéric Humanis.

Nevertheless, be careful not to fall into well-washing

According to the employee survey (“Health and well-being at work” carried out by the BVA-BPI group in 2019), 41% of service-industry employees often report feeling stress at work. 

Since returning to in person work, QVT programs about wellness at work but also about caring management. However, it is difficult not to fall into well-washing or the art of concealing bad working conditions.

What is well-washing ?

Well-washing is the gap between a company’s communication and the actual working conditions. Under the appearance of a «cool» and «good atmosphere», anxiety and overwork are often present.

In this case, we are talking about companies that set up facilities for their employees to improve their quality of life at work, but in return expect more from their employees… For example, if they have yoga classes between noon and two, they will have to compensate for this activity by catching up on hours they have not worked.

The consequences of wellness washing

Unfortunately, this practice has morally challenging consequences for employees. For example, lengthening working time (If we play foosball for example, we have to make up the time spent playing, but if we do not play, it is seen as weird).

Often there is a hidden but very real pressure : “In our company, you will not be policed”, “We don’t care about schedules”… The purpose of these companies is only to retain their employees. But, “most often, taking into account employees immediate well-being is also a way to divert their attention from things that really matter like safety, salaries…” said Mathilde Ramadier, author of Welcome to the New World. How I survived the coolness of start-ups.

The improvement of working conditions is an important element of performance in today’s world and must be integrated into a strategic reflection integrated within the company’s objectives. It is essential not to reduce this need to a vague notion of well-being or comfort. In fact, it has an impact on employees’ health, motivation and performance. It is therefore essential for companies to pay close attention to their employees and try to improve their conditions  as much as possible without falling victim to well-washing. 

The consequences of wellness washing

1. Listen to your employees

Through discussions and monitoring tools, ensure that employees have the mental and material resources to carry out their duties.

2. Foster creativity and self-expression

Organize individual exchanges with each employee to listen to their desires and expectations

3. Utilize digital tools designed to make your employee’s lives easier

Digital technology makes it possible to simplify the lives of employees, so it is important to always look at the newly available digital tools to improve your workers’ daily life.

4. Foster good practices on disconnecting from technology

Take a relaxing break in the day, take a micro nap and teach your employees to disconnect from all the notifications and emails they may receive after leaving the office.

Companies do their best to display their initiatives and motivation to improve the comfort and well-being of employees, optimize their efficiency at work, etc. but mostly to improve the quality of life at work without falling into well-washing. Quality of life at work is not just the activities and benefits offered to employees. It also takes into consideration the transparency of management and the balance between what they say and the available means for employees.

How about combining work performance and the well-being of your employees ? To learn more you can consult the nap at work and quality of life at work, what is it ?


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