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Are You Offering Wishy Washy Wellbeing?

Posted by Zen | 09th April 2024

Are You Offering Wishy Washy Wellbeing?

According to a recent survey 60% of working adults say flexible working conditions are an important factor when choosing an employer, with 59% saying the benefits available to employees would influence their decision. It’s a clear indicator that many employees have become accustomed to working flexibly or remotely, and prioritising holistic wellbeing has become paramount.

So it’s vital that employers are getting it right. Offering perks and benefits which truly nurture the holistic health that has become so important following a global pandemic and amidst a cost of living crisis.

Sadly however, there’s a familiar issue across many organisations throughout the UK - an exaggeration of perks and wellbeing-focused benefits on offer which simply aren’t being carried out in reality.

In short: perkwashing.

Organisations are promising a myriad of benefits in order to both attract the next big talent, and retain existing superstars. They claim to offer ‘flexibility’, remote options, and even work-from-anywhere agreements. Health plans, gym memberships, regular yoga classes, and fully-stocked kitchens offering free nutritious meals and snacks. And yes, even on-site massage rooms. Having such an eye-catching package on offer makes for easy pickings, and they take on the best of the best.

All too often though these benefits turn out to be little more than tick box exercises, or worse still a smokescreen with which to mask underlying cultural issues within a company, or a low salary - or both.

It’s important to note that perkwashing isn’t something companies necessarily do on purpose. It’s natural for an organisation to want to make themselves look good on paper to attract the right candidates. And often there are good intentions to actually offer all the benefits they’ve described, but a lack of resources makes it difficult for them to follow through with their promises.

Perkwashing can also often arise from a lack of understanding of what constitutes flexibility. It isn’t cramming five days into four, nor is it gifting employees an hour to attend a dental appointment. Genuine flexibility is personal and unique to each employee and their circumstances - it’s allowing them the autonomy to make their own decisions to manage their workload around their individual lifestyle, commitments and desires.

The good news is that there are positive steps you can take to avoid perkwashing, and to build a culture which is truly supportive of your employees’ holistic health and wellbeing.

The key is to be honest and transparent about the perks on offer. And always keep in mind that company benefits won’t solve deeper issues - they should be used to complement a positive workplace culture, not polish a bad one. After all, it’s pretty futile to offer a monthly massage (or on-site massage room) if employees are worked to burnout within a toxic working culture and rarely find the time to even see their family, let alone nurture their wellbeing.

If you come from a place of authenticity when considering your employee benefits package, and communicate them effectively and encourage (and facilitate) full use of them, then can you forge a strong and positive workplace culture that not only attracts the best candidates - but ensures they actually remain happy, engaged and loyal employees.

This is a topic very close to our heart at Zen, so do watch out for our future blogs where we’ll delve more deeply into the damaging impact of over-monitoring performance by firms promising the world of benefits, and also how your internal communications can help avoid falling into the perkwashing trap.


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