“QWL washing”, which is on the rise in the world of work, refers to companies that implement ineffective Quality of Working Life (QWL) policies, primarily designed to promote their image (Tillé and Somville, 2017). These superficial strategies, which prioritise appearance over employee fulfilment, undermine the integrity of working relationships.
I. Unsatisfied employee expectations
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (2018) reveals that employees are scrutinising the sincerity of their company’s QWL initiatives. Superficial arrangements or material benefits are no longer enough to satisfy their need for respect, recognition and a balance between personal and professional life.
What’s more, “QWL washing” does little to meet these expectations. Marie, an executive in the pharmaceutical industry, says: “Despite the introduction of a gym and a concierge service, the pressure persists and our overtime is not recognised”.
The consequences are alarming. Despite major spending on QWL, demotivation, disengagement and an increase in psychosocial risks are persistent realities (Dupont and Alis, 2020). For companies, this means sharp falls in productivity, increased staff turnover and a deterioration in the employer brand.
II. Corporate awareness
It is vital that companies realise that QWL is not just a marketing ploy. Actually, it is a genuine management strategy centred on people (Hulin, 2021). To counter “QWL washing”, they must act with transparency, integrity and respect for their employees’ expectations. This will make improving their well-being more effective and relevant.
As Paul, HR manager at a digital SME, points out, “Employees recognise and prefer a company that genuinely cares about their well-being at work. They prefer a healthy working environment and caring management to superficial conveniences. They are more committed when the company genuinely cares about their well-being”.
Finally, it is crucial to put people at the heart of the company’s concerns. This will ensure that QWL becomes a pillar of performance and development. Sophie, a QWL consultant, illustrates this point well: “I work with companies that are beginning to realise that their QWL efforts have been in vain because they have not taken into account the real needs of their employees. A complete overhaul of their approach is needed.”
To avoid the trap of “QWL washing” and promote a healthy and fulfilling working environment, companies need to adopt a sincere and authentic approach to QWL. This approach must genuinely meet the needs and expectations of employees. It is high time for companies to move away from surface marketing. They need to adopt a genuine strategy for well-being at work, in their own interests and those of their employees.