Over a third of companies are “wellbeing washing”, according to reports – an act whereby businesses make an effort to appear as though they are supporting employee wellbeing, but not actually doing so. 

This suggests that a large proportion of organisations are happy enough to talk the talk about health and wellbeing at their workplace, but aren’t willing to promote practices or build support systems that they know their employees want and need.

Further reports highlight that nearly 8 in 10 (79%) UK employees don’t believe their employer when they discuss or promote the mental health initiatives offered to them.

Not only this, but articles highlight that despite 70% of workplaces recognising mental health awareness days, only 3 in 10 were deemed to offer “good” mental health support by their employees.

Evidently, “wellbeing washing” is an issue that many employees are facing within their roles at present, and they feel that their mental, psychological, and physical health is not being prioritised to a satisfactory degree.

So much so, in fact, that research from late 2023 found that as many as half (49%) of employees don’t feel that they are supported to discuss their mental health in the workplace.

In light of Mental Health Awareness Week (May 13th – May 19th), Virtual College by Netex has shared its insight on how seriously companies have been taking the mental health of their employees in recent years. The company is a specialist e-learning provider that offers courses in mental health awareness and training for employers, managers, and leaders.

Jamie Ashforth, a leadership team member in the UK at Virtual College by Netex, dissected its internal data for its “Supporting Your Staff Through Mental Health” course, to find that 350 total allocations were made in 2023, with 117 being made from January to May of this year so far.

However, this data suggests that there may be fewer employers utilising this course to support their employees’ mental health this year if these allocations are assigned at the same rate.

This would mean that “wellbeing washing” could continue to be a problem in workplaces across the country this year, with employees feeling as though their wellbeing is still not adequately prioritised, and many feeling uncomfortable discussing their mental health at work, as previous research has shown.

As such, Virtual College by Netex states that more must be done to open up this topic of conversation and create a genuine, supportive workplace to protect employee wellbeing.

Abi Holmes, Catalogue Product Owner at Virtual College by Netex, who works directly with mental health subject matter experts to support in developing the company’s mental health resources, shares that “more organisations are including mental health in their policies and procedures, but there is still a huge gap in genuine support.

Abi commented:

By educating themselves on the topic of employee wellbeing and learning how they can best implement a genuine emotional and psychological support system at work, organisations can bridge this gap and support their employees better.

Abi Holmes, Catalogue Product Owner at Virtual College by Netex

Virtual College by Netex’s course “Supporting Your Staff Through Mental Health” offers workplaces across the UK the resources needed to expand their understanding of mental health, promote awareness, and implement strategies to prioritise mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.