Three ways to create an authentic wellbeing culture in the workplace

6 min read | Hannah Pearsall | Article | | Wellbeing

wellbeing culture in the workplace

Most organisations today claim to care about and support the wellbeing of their employees, but there’s an increasing concern that employers appear to care but fail to actively demonstrate this, known as wellbeing washing. Putting these values into practice rather than simply on paper is what will facilitate the real change that is needed. According to AXA’s global Mind Health Study 2023, as many as one in five UK employees suffer with their mental health.

It’s important to reflect on whether there is tangible action going on within an organisation to mitigate the risk of a person’s job taking a negative toll on their wellbeing. Employers must move away from disjointed initiatives, awareness days and resources and, instead, move towards a well-informed, long-term and holistic wellbeing strategy that has substantial outcomes.

Whilst creating an authentic wellbeing culture is no easy task, with the right plans in place, employers can prioritise employee wellbeing and make a noticeably positive difference. Here are three ways to avoid wellbeing washing and develop an authentic culture:

1. Understand what people want within your organisation

One of the most effective ways to support employee wellbeing is to understand what people want within your organisation. This should be no different to any other area of a business, where decisions are typically evidence-based and led by data.

Whilst wellbeing means something different for everyone, there are still ways in which you can collect invaluable insight to make sure you’re responding to the needs of your employees. Rather than implementing initiatives and hoping they work, ask people the right questions and ensure they feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts and feelings. Gathering and utilising these insights will be imperative to create a genuine wellbeing culture.  

Changing the narrative is about recognising the importance of both reactive and proactive elements within your wellbeing strategy. People will always need support when their wellbeing declines, but employers need to consider what led to this point and how to prevent more people struggling in the future.

2. Empower people to make their own wellbeing decisions

It’s crucial to recognise that the only way to really achieve a culture of wellbeing is to empower people to make positive decisions when it comes to their own wellbeing. Crucially, since there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, employers must encourage people to reflect on what will work best for them.

When it comes to mental health specifically, we encourage senior members of our team to share their stories to normalise opening up about personal struggles. Employees who can relate to the experiences discussed may feel less alone and it also creates an environment for professionals to acknowledge and talk about their own wellbeing. This open dialogue makes it easier for people to seek the support they might require, which is crucial for preventing further concerns.

Particularly when it comes to mental health, it’s vital to have continuous and consistent messaging, so employees know there is not just support on a specific awareness day, week or month, but throughout the year.

3.Take a holistic approach to make tangible changes

Organisations ought to adopt a holistic strategy that incorporates everything from physical, mental, social and financial wellbeing when putting plans in place to support employees. Professionals are likely to be impacted by both factors that exist within work, such as pressures and demands, and aspects of their life outside of work, such as the cost-of-living crisis. No matter what the cause, employers should consider all of the factors which may be impacting a person’s ability to cope with, and succeed in, their job.

Many factors play a role in a professional’s wellbeing, such as whether they have clear duties and responsibilities, are paid fairly, feel confident in their abilities and have a supportive line manager. To achieve a shared responsibility for wellbeing in the workplace, employers need to assess critical things like job design, work expectations, environment and organisational structure.

The importance of taking a holistic approach was also emphasised recently in a virtual roundtable with AXA Health, where we discussed the crucial part line managers play in supporting employee mental health for example. However, it’s not all on the line manager and managers themselves need more support, hence the importance of a holistic approach which considers the needs of all employees as individuals.

Final thoughts

As opposed to employers emphasising their values at a surface level, wellbeing needs to become embedded into strategies across all areas of the business to create an authentic wellbeing culture. Employers who take this on board will stand in good stead to attract and retain talent today, as professionals who feel good and function well are more likely to stay at an organisation and thrive.


About this author

Hannah Pearsall, Head of Wellbeing, Hays UK&I

Hannah has over 20 years of recruitment experience across a number of business areas, including construction and property, technology, engineering, energy, social care, human resources and procurement. She is now the Head of Wellbeing at Hays and leads on the design, development, implementation and delivery of a holistic and evolving wellbeing strategy for the UK and Ireland.

articleId- 57261003, groupId- 20151