Supplement to Mercer ABSL webinar of 25th of March 2020.


Wellbeing became another iconic word for HR community. In HR management we are always looking for something fresh, more attractive and better expressing the subject and objectives of the various HR processes. Wellbeing is for sure one of the most interesting concepts. It covers much more than just benefits, compensation or company culture. This is employers’ answer for employees’ concerns and fears, they experience today in pandemic (post pandemic) world.


What wellbeing means for us and why this is a hot topic for many organizations? For sure this is not just a new type of benefit or employer offer. This is the new concept of designing and managing the relations between an employer and employees. Wellbeing covers almost all aspects of this relation, starting from traditional compensation and benefits elements, towards physical, mental health care and financial wellness. However there is also a new component of this concept, which is “social” and environmental element including among others CSR activity, diversity & inclusion practices, pay equity strategy and finally employer vision and culture.


It should be added that one of the most important elements of efficient wellbeing process is empathy in defining the rules and designing the system. More and more companies are trying to better understand their employees, asking for regular feedback and opinions and regularly communicating its own values and EVP (employer value proposition). This trend is clearly visible, however sometimes still in theory only – based on Mercer surveys, e.g. 2020 Benefits & Remote Working Trends survey, only 60% of Polish companies ask employees for their feedback and expectations regarding benefits. Presented above wellbeing elements have direct impact on business results, on productivity and individual engagement. Therefore wellbeing as a concept should be treated not as a compensation strategy, but as completed and consistent HR management strategy.


Wellbeing could be analyzed from two perspectives: employee & employer. As far as an employer perspective is concerned – every employer is looking for the most efficient relation between cost and value. As always, costs could be easily defined and calculated. The “value” is much more complex issue. We could measure it by employee engagement, competitiveness of our compensation & benefits package (e.g. comparing to market practice), employee satisfaction etc.


Regarding the market practice and benefits component of wellbeing let’s look at current market trends and observations. Based on already mentioned Mercer Benefits & Remote Working Trends survey there were few new trends on the benefits market being a direct result of 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. Those changes concern almost all benefits, however top 3 were: no. 1 is a new approach to work life balance, including mental health and physical health (50% increase of costs spend on workshops and similar activities). The change no. 2 concerns work related events, including integration events (minus 23% of cost spent) and the change no. 3 relates to working hours & working from home model, including of course shifts from fixed to flexible working hours model.


In many wellbeing offers there are still many well known and standard elements, like financial wellness or physical and mental health. However some detailed features of those benefits have changed during pandemic times. For instance, before Covid-19, financial wellness typically has covered financial and legal services for employees. Those type of benefits have been existing on the market for many years, however they were not so popular (at least in Poland). The same concerns mental health, which was sometimes included in the standard packages of medical coverage offered by medical clinics in Poland or alternatively available within global EAP programs (Employee Assistance Programs). But for sure were not so popular, especially in Poland. Covid has changed this situation.


There are also many other traditional benefits which have changed significantly. The change does it mean only the structure, scope and similar details. This is also a change in employee perception. It includes among others: family & children benefits, flex benefits, personal insurance, emergency grants and employee financial supports, including long term savings and pensions. For the last benefit one tendency is clear – there is no employer at the moment in Poland without pension scheme – mandatory PPK auto enrolment schemes have been introduced in 2019. It means, PPK reform has changed the general picture of corporate pension benefits. This is definitely not enough to have the pension scheme today, there is much more to offer to be a market leader – and it does it mean, the employer should spend more money on contributions, this is rather the question of additional elements of employer offer like: investment education, pension awareness, access to regular information etc. PPK seems to be the entry stage in our Polish pension “journey”. Due to demographic changes (workforce aging), pension gap (low income replacements) and further changes in pension system, corporate pensions will be important elements of every benefits discussions in Poland in next 5/10 years for sure.


As far as new benefits are concerned this is worth to mention that 50% of Polish organizations introduced new benefits in 2020. Many of them have been implemented because of lockdown and  economy slowdown, for instance: new model of working, primary remote working, flexible working hours etc. There were many new benefits introduced as employer response to Covid-19 consequences, for example: Covid insurance or wellbeing sessions which address key problems resulting from: lack of social interactions between employees, stress, health and life style problems, financial concerns regarding the future etc. Among those new benefits, mental health & psychological support seem to be one of the most important. Of course those benefits are not really new, however the importance and their specific features are different. For instance it concerns changes in eligibility criteria, which result in wider groups to be eligible for those benefits. As a result, they are more prevalent and common at present. This is obvious and easily understandable looking at employees opinions regarding Covid-19 situation. Based on 2020 Mercer Life Style survey (survey done in Poland among employees) the most negative consequences of Covid pandemic are: 1) stress related to work and financial instability & families (50% voices), 2) relationship with work colleagues (45%), 3) access to medical clinics (70%) and 4) physical activity (39%). What does it mean for wellbeing? If we would like to listen employees and react appropriately most probably our mental health programs should be extended and address all those issues – typically by providing specific workshop sessions or assistance programs (e.g. psychological consultations, chats with specialists, psychotherapeutic sessions, financial education sessions etc.). No doubts, those programs became important elements of every wellbeing system not today, but also in the future. Many of them are also available on the Polish market, and, which is also important being delivered by local providers and in local language.


This is obvious, that wellbeing strategies will evolve in the future. Today we concentrate more at Covid related issues, in few moths other elements will became more important. Diversity and inclusions and pay equity for sure will be some of them. With high probability, wellbeing as the general concept of empathic management will stay with us for a long time.


Krzysztof Nowak

9 April 2021


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