Ist das Glas Halbvoll oder halbleer? Welttag des Optimismus

World Optimist Day

Der “Optimist Day” wird jedes Jahr weltweit am ersten Donnerstag im Februar begangen. Das Hauptthema dieses Tages ist der Aufbau und die Erhaltung einer positiven Zukunft!

Die Weltgesundheitsorganisation sagt: “Arbeit ist gut für die psychische Gesundheit, aber ein negatives Arbeitsumfeld kann zu körperlichen und psychischen Gesundheitsproblemen führen”. Darüber hinaus haben Depressionen und Angstzustände erhebliche wirtschaftliche Auswirkungen; die geschätzten Kosten für die Weltwirtschaft belaufen sich auf über 1 Billion USD pro Jahr in Form von Produktivitätsverlusten.

Doch was ist ein Optimist genau?

Ein Optimist ist jemand, der seinen Platz im Leben und die Zukunft positiv sieht. Letztendlich glaubt ein Optimist eher, dass gute Dinge passieren werden, und kann die positive Seite vieler Situationen sehen, aber es gibt auch noch andere Vorteile! Es ist einfach eine Geisteshaltung, bei der es darum geht, neue Wege des Denkens, Handelns und Verhaltens zu schaffen, aber auch darum, wie wir miteinander arbeiten und aufeinander reagieren.

Angesichts des geopolitischen und weltwirtschaftlichen Umfelds, mit dem wir alle derzeit konfrontiert sind, haben wir noch nie zuvor ein solches Ausmaß an permanenter Unsicherheit erlebt! Wir erleben Zeiten des permanenten Wandels. In Zeiten der Ungewissheit und des Wandels ist es schwer, immer Optimist zu sein. Wir sind nicht perfekt und müssen daran arbeiten, es sei denn natürlich, man hat das Glück, ein geborener Optimist zu sein.

Er hilft den Menschen, mit negativen Erfahrungen besser umzugehen und zu wachsen, da sie Rückschläge als Chancen für Wachstum wahrnehmen, und er schützt vor Depressionen – auch bei Menschen, die dafür gefährdet sind. Eine optimistische Einstellung macht den Menschen widerstandsfähiger gegen Stress!

Optimimus und Unternehmenskultur

Ein Optimist ist mehr als jemand, der einfach nur daran glaubt, dass die Dinge gut laufen werden, denn es sind auch Menschen, die hart daran arbeiten, eine positive Zukunft aufzubauen. Außerdem sorgt Optimismus dafür, dass die Menschen ein besseres Gemüt haben. Im Gegensatz zu ihren zynischen Kollegen vermitteln sie den Menschen Hoffnung und Positivität, was ihnen wiederum hilft, gute soziale Beziehungen zu knüpfen. Da der Mensch ein soziales Wesen ist, sind bessere Beziehungen auch gut für die psychische Gesundheit.

Die Unternehmenskultur ist ein wichtiger Bestandteil des Wertversprechens an die Mitarbeiter und, da die Unternehmen den “Krieg um Talente” fortsetzen, ein zentrales Instrument zur Anwerbung und Bindung von Mitarbeitern! Wenn Sie ein optimistisches Team oder einen optimistischen Mitarbeiter haben, ist Optimismus die Voraussetzung für nachhaltiges und lang anhaltendes Wachstum und eine positive Arbeitsplatzkultur. Er führt zu erfolgreichen Ergebnissen sowohl für den Einzelnen als auch für das Unternehmen.

Pessimismus hingegen zieht die Menschen langsam herunter, belastet die Beziehungen und kann zu einer negativen und toxischen Arbeitsplatzkultur führen – einer Kultur, die dysfunktionales Verhalten, schlechte Kommunikation und sogar eine niedrige Moral beinhaltet. Dies wirkt sich natürlich auf die psychische Gesundheit des Einzelnen aus und führt zu schlechten Ergebnissen für das Wohlbefinden.
Schlechte psychische Gesundheit und Erkrankungen wie Depressionen, Angstzustände und Stress, die zu Selbstmordgedanken und Selbstmord führen können, sind weltweit ein wachsendes Problem. Die weitreichenden Auswirkungen auf Familie, Freunde und Kollegen lassen sich nicht messen.

Die Auswirkungen auf Ihr Wohlbefinden

Erinnern Sie sich an Helen Keller: Halte dein Gesicht in den Sonnenschein, und du kannst die Schatten nicht sehen. Eine positive, optimistische Lebenseinstellung ist der beste Weg, um nicht von negativen, pessimistischen Gedanken übermannt zu werden. Optimismus hat einen erheblichen Einfluss auf Ihr geistiges und körperliches Wohlbefinden. Die Forschung zeigt, dass eine optimistische Einstellung (bestimmte) Vorteile mit sich bringt, wie z. B. eine bessere Gesundheit, mehr Erfolg, weniger Stress und eine höhere Lebenserwartung.

Für mich ist klar: In der gegenwärtigen Situation der globalen und nationalen Wirtschaft spielen Wohlbefinden und Optimismus eine wesentliche Rolle für die Widerstandsfähigkeit unserer Arbeitskräfte.

Ich vertrete definitiv den Ansatz, dass das Glas halb voll ist, aber wenn sich das Gefühl einstellt, dass das Glas halb leer ist, bietet das die Gelegenheit, innezuhalten, nachzudenken und – was wichtig ist – die Situation neu zu bewerten. Als Optimist konzentriere ich mich mehr auf das, was ich habe und was ich noch tun kann (mit einem halben Glas Wasser), als zu sehen, dass das halbe Glas leer ist und irgendwann nichts mehr drin sein wird!
Nehmen wir uns einen Moment Zeit, jeden Tag – nicht nur am 2. Februar – um darüber nachzudenken, wie wir unsere Einstellung ändern können. In dem halbvollen Glas ist noch viel drin!

Adam Riley, Cert PFS 

Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits

T +44 (0) 7507 788 144

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Is Your Glass Half-full Or Half-empty? World Optimist Day!

World Optimist Day

Optimist Day is a global annual celebration falling on the first Thursday of February. The day’s key theme is focussed on building and sustaining a positive future!

The World Health Organisation says: “Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems”. Furthermore, depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is +USD 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

But what is an optimist?

An optimist is someone who has positive views about their place in life and the future. Ultimately, an optimist is more likely to think good things will happen and can see the positive side of many situations, but there are wider benefits too! It is simply a state of mind, about creating new ways of thinking, acting and behaving, but also how we work with and respond to one another.

With the geopolitical and global economic backdrop currently being faced by us all, we have never experienced this level of permanent uncertainty before! We are undergoing times of permanent change. In times of uncertainty and change, being an optimist, all the time is hard. We’re not perfect and have to work on it unless of course you’re lucky enough to be a natural-born optimist.
 
It helps people deal better with the negative experiences, and grow, since they have perceived setbacks as opportunities for growth, as well as protecting against depression — even for people who are at risk for it. An optimistic outlook makes people more resistant to stress!

Optimism and business culture

An optimist is more than someone who just believes things will work out, as they are also people who work hard to build a positive future. Similarly, optimism also makes people have a better disposition. Unlike their cynical counterparts, they offer hope and positivity to the people, which then also helps them forge good social relationships. As humans are social animals, therefore, having better relationships is good for mental health as well.
 
Business culture is a key part of the employee value proposition and, as businesses continue in the “war for talent”, a core recruitment and retention tool! If you have an optimistic team or employee(s), optimism is what allows for sustainable and prolonged growth, and positive workplace culture. It drives successful outcomes for both individual and business performance.

Whereas pessimism will slowly bring people down, create strains on relationships and could lead to a negative and toxic workplace culture – one that contains dysfunctional behaviour, poor communication, and even low morale. This naturally impacts individual mental health and leads to poor Wellbeing outcomes.
 
Poor mental health and conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress, which can lead to suicidal thoughts and suicide, are a growing problem across the globe. The wider impact to family, friends and colleagues cannot be measured.

The impact on your wellbeing

Helen Keller is worth remembering – keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. Maintaining a positive, optimistic attitude to life is the best way to avoid being overtaken by negative, pessimistic thoughts. Optimism has such a significant impact on your mental and physical Wellbeing. Research shows an optimistic outlook carries (certain) advantages, such as better health, greater achievement, less stress, and greater longevity.
 
For me, it is clear – in the current state of the global and domestic economies, Wellbeing and optimism play integral roles in the resilience of our workforce.
 
I definitely take the glass-half-full approach, but when the glass-half-empty feeling creeps in, it provides a chance to stop, think and, importantly, reassess the situation. As an optimist, I focus more on what I have, and what more can be done (with half a glass of water) than seeing that half the glass is empty and will eventually have nothing left in it!
 
Let’s take a moment, every day – not just on February 2 – to think about how we can adjust our state of mind. That half-full glass has lots left in it!

Adam Riley, Cert PFS 

Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits

T +44 (0) 7507 788 144

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GrECo Health & Benefits bolsters its senior team

Preslava Gencheva joins GrECo

Preslava Gencheva joins Adam Riley to further build the Health & Benefits business across the Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe (CESEE) region.

With its continued success, GrECo has appointed Preslava Gencheva as Deputy Group Practice Leader, Health & Benefits, in a newly created group leadership role. This role further reinforces Adam’s Health & Benefits strategy to become the leading risk management adviser and employer of choice throughout the CESEE region. Closely working with Adam, Preslava will support him in building, developing and the day-to-day running of GrECo’s specialist Health & Benefits business across its 17 CESEE countries.
 
Preslava joins from Karoll Financial Group where, for 14 years, she held several roles, more latterly Commercial Director. In a client-facing role, she successfully developed sales and marketing strategies, efficiencies for sales and operational processes, and managed sales across their 70 offices and 200 colleagues.

Adam Riley, GrECo Specialty, Health & Benefits commented: “We warmly welcome Preslava to GrECo and are delighted she has joined us at this very important juncture in our growth. Preslava is highly regarded and well-respected in our profession, bringing significant experience, insights, and a fresh outlook to GrECo Health & Benefits. We continue to attract high-calibre individuals and top talent, and the appointment of Preslava truly reflects how, as an independent family-run risk specialist business. GrECo is renowned for its people, reliability, stability, and independence.
 
She will play a key part in our growth strategy as the leading Health & Benefits consultancy across CESEE, which further enhances our value proposition for clients, partners, and carriers. I am looking forward to working with Preslava to continue the success of our Health & Benefits business across the CESEE region, and personally wish her every success in this new group leadership role.
 
So, Preslava, welcome to GrECo! Why did you decide to join our company?
When Adam and I started talking, I already knew of GrECo, and seen the business become the leading specialist insurance broker & consultant across the CESEE region. I had also heard in the market about the refreshing new strategy Adam had created since he joined in July last year, as well as the new direction and journey the GrECo Health & Benefits business is headed and knew this was the natural next step in my career!
 
The creation of this new role to help Adam run, build, and develop GrECo´s growing Health & Benefits business is so important as it reflects the demands of clients and employers across countries in which they operate.
 
What do you feel employers are looking for from a H&B partner?
Employers are looking for a specialist consultancy who understands their business, their employee requirements and above all else is seen as their true partner to provide sustainable long-term H&B solutions. Having talked with many HR and Benefit professionals, it is clear Health & Benefits is no longer just about insurance solutions, it is now about developing & providing appropriate risk management solutions for employers, which are both relevant and sustainable for their multinational and multigenerational workforce, now and able to evolve in the future.
 
Employers are expecting much more from their broker – more sophistication, wider knowledge, and are looking for their Health & Benefits adviser to provide appropriate and tailored solutions and delivering true thought-leadership. This is where GrECo Health & Benefits really adds tremendous value!
 
Tell us about the Preslava, outside of work.
I am married, with one son. Healthy living has become more and more important and plays a key part in my family life. For me this is to care for my physical and mental state and, as a family, we practice this through taking part in active sports including snowboarding, paddling, mountain tracking and tennis, and taking care of my mind by reading good books and meditation!

Thanks, Preslava. A final word from you?
Joining GrECo in their next phase of strategic growth is hugely exciting and provides an amazing opportunity to help build and run their Health & Benefits business. I look forward to working with Adam and being part of his team and its future strategy to become the leading Health & Benefits risk management adviser and employer of choice across the CESEE region, further enhancing the value proposition for clients, partners, and carriers!

Adam Riley, Cert PFS 

Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits

T +44 (0) 7507 788 144

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The New Focus on Talent

focus on talents

Digital transformation, demographic change, increasing complexity and a global virus are leading to a continuous process of change. For those responsible for Human Resources, this situation brings new opportunities and challenges.

The need for highly qualified employees is growing. Aging teams in digitized work environments are increasingly creating skills gaps. Recruiters are no longer required to select ideal candidates for filling critical positions from a flood of applications. Those times are in the past. The tide has turned, the recruitment processes are more about arousing the applicants’ interest in the company with the help of employer branding activities.

Talent Identification and Management

The magic word is talent. But how do companies succeed in attracting talent? 

Let’s start with the meaning of the word. The term talent can be represented in different ways. What is undisputed is certainly the expectation of talented people to make a valuable contribution to the company’s success. Talents are mostly associated with people outside the company. 

But what about those talents who are already part of the organization and whose potential is (still) undiscovered?
In the “War for Talent”, HR strategies are based on three key factors:

  • Recruitment
  • Education and Development
  • Retention

The relation between looking after current employees and attracting new talent shows what makes a company the workplace of choice, which key factors are necessary for this attractiveness, and how companies differ from the competition.

Learning and Development

Professional training and individual development, flexible career paths and a broader range of tasks are of great importance to the new generation of employees. Attractive employers, therefore, offer a learning and development strategy that integrates learning into the workplace and draws individual learning and development paths.

We believe that GrECo is a great place for great people, where every employee has the chance to learn and work independently and bring in ideas. We developed a sophisticated internal learning and development programme, because we know that lifelong learning is a major factor for new generation of employees.

Learn more on our Careers page.

Employer Branding and New Work Culture

More and more applicants are screening potential employers for their commitment to climate protection, diversity and inclusion, ethical decision-making, and sustainable finance. Generations X, Y and Z in particular, are looking for ways to contribute to change with their work and are increasingly opting for companies that live their Environmental Social Governance (ESG) responsibility and present it transparently.

A realignment of the corporate DNA is therefore based on social responsibility and the creation of sustainable and secure jobs. This requires a work culture that puts people first, even in the time of digital transformation.
The workplace of future needs basic conditions that create space for new things, promote a culture of mistakes and feedback and stimulate social exchange to enable innovation and creativity. Companies need to keep that promise they make in job interviews, on social media and in publications, and remain authentic in their stories.

Gabriele Andratschke

Head of Group Human Resources

T +43 664 962 39 18

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The World Is Changing, Enter a New World Order!

The world is changing, enter a new world order!

Nowadays, employees expect more from their employer than ever before. Meeting these expectations will involve more personalisation of the health and benefits offering.

The world has had its fair share of upheavals, but when Covid became part of our daily conversations, irrespective of where one lived, we were all looking for the magic light at the end of the tunnel! It took a long time to come, never have we had to live with so much uncertainty, and this new state of uncertainty will become part of life, certainly for the foreseeable future.
 
Employers reacted quickly when another lockdown was announced. Working from home became the norm, and a new way of living was forced upon us. I remember when the first lockdown was announced; I thought it would soon be over, but days turned into weeks, then months. Schools closed, infrastructure suffered, travel became a distant memory, as did freely going on holiday.
 
The financial impact on the global economy was severe, and the true extent of the impact on people’s mental wellbeing is still largely unknown.
 
Then the unthinkable happened: a war in Europe! Further significant disruptions aggravated the already fragile and near-breaking healthcare and financial systems across the globe. Energy supplies, production lines, supply chains, distribution channels, and more, were equally hard hit. Many believe these disruptions have permanently altered the world order. While we all feel the direct and indirect impact of the war, managers and business owners have made it their top priority to protect the health and safety of their employees. 

A new world order …

History tells us that Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill introduced a term “new world order” to global politics, describing a new era of history marked by a profound shift in world political philosophy and the worldwide balance of power. Over the years, it became a factor in domestic and international relations and in legislation. It also sent out a clear message that change to the status quo was on the cards. As a result of the global consequences to the war in Europe, “a new political world order” has come about, again.
 
Rapid change and shifting trends have also found their way into companies. In response to the economic crisis – caused by the world bouncing back from Covid, changing weather systems, spending patterns and the conflict in Europe – employers are taking steps to support their staff, arguably much more than we have seen in recent memory, but this can only go so far as it is not just individuals who are affected. Employers also need to address their short, medium, and long-term strategies simply to remain in business.
 
The cost of living has risen significantly. Levels of inflation across the globe have spiked. Talks of recession and warnings of energy price-increases have become reality. The war in Europe, which many thought would be over quickly, still rages on, with terrible human loss. Unstable Governments resulting in profound market and economic shifts resulting in significant changes to financial ratings.
 
The news presents a gloomy outlook – yet, still, employers continue to uphold both health and benefits in their companies, whilst at the same time employers are facing increasing insurance premiums and crippling energy bills. Why? Their employees are important, as are the families. With this, we are seeing a shift in how employers are looking at their future benefit programmes – a steady wise in employers ripping up the “benefits blueprint” and looking at how to restructure their benefits to be more sustainable; more fit for purpose to assess how the wider package could better support their employees.
 
Whilst some level of financial support is welcomed by all, this is only one part of the solution. Employers with voluntary-style benefits, discount schemes etc can also signpost employees to these as they can offer real-time savings for every-day-expenditure.  In view of the current economic backdrop where pressure on salaries has started to impact, we are seeing more employers incorporating this into the wider offering, and anecdotal evidence shows this has been well-received by employees.
 
We learnt valuable lessons through lockdowns when innovative digital solutions were introduced because we could not access face-to-face services. Solutions such as online yoga and personal trainer lessons, telemedicine and virtual appointments to access General Practitioners, wearable technology being used to track fitness levels, our sleep, diet, etc. have been widely adopted.  Many of us have become used to doing things via handheld devices.
 

We need to better listen to our people

People typically don’t like to admit it they are struggling or ask for help! The same applies to financial difficulties, where many people struggle silently when faced with the next household bill, rising energy bills, dental costs, etc. Hence, employer attractiveness has long since ceased to be defined by just the daily fruit basket or a water cooler. Corporate culture and wider wellbeing must therefore be place permanently on the leadership agenda to enable employers to better support employees and promote financial, mental, physical and social Wellbeing.
 
Everyone knows and understands the arguments as to why Wellbeing needs to be taken seriously. When it comes to Wellbeing, it is a complex dynamic between the culture of the company, the work environment, external factors, and the physical, social, psychological & mental health of employees – it also perfectly dovetails into the wider ESG conversation and the key sustainable development goals!
 
As the Human Sustainability Index, a new way to track Wellbeing and performance, gains momentum, we’re seeing more and more organisations wake up to how they can decrease burnout and build performance and Wellbeing at the same time.
 
Employers also need to focus more on the individual; however, they first need to listen to what their employees are saying, and not simply push forward an employee “benefit” just because it may be a good idea for the company. Over the years, I have seen many employee “benefits” introduced (sometimes at significant cost to the company) only to hear the end recipients, the employees, say that it isn’t something which is needed or wanted.
 
Nowadays, employees expect more from their employer than ever before. Meeting these expectations will involve more personalisation of the benefits offering: employers reviewing what benefits are offered, restructuring leave, and working policies, bringing forward salary reviews to help those who need it most, and perhaps even shaping a position to suit the skills, experience, and ambitions of the individual they want to recruit. Ultimately, employees are expecting employers to work hard(er) to attract and retain them. Those that do can expect to gain the very best talent. Those that don’t will face an uphill struggle in getting the right people, achieving employee loyalty, and of course engaging their people!

Adam Riley, Cert PFS 

Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits

T +44 (0) 7507 788 144

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Geopolitics Shapes the World to Come

Our multipolar world and its myriad of geopolitical forces presents us and our clients with a vast, multidimensional array of risks. As bleak as this may sound, geopolitics and its impact on energy also offers a number of opportunities.

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Make mental health & wellbeing for all a global priority, every day!

According to research by Deloitte in 2022, the total annual cost of poor mental health to employers increased by 25% since 2019, totalling between £53-56 billion in 2020/202

World Mental Health Day, October 10 and the theme for 2022 is “Make Mental Health & Wellbeing for all a Global Priority”. World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity to talk about mental health, how we need to look after it, and how important it is to talk about things and get help if you are struggling. As a society, we now live with permanent uncertainty – this will become part of life – but we also need to reflect on the toll these continued uncertainties are having on our wider health and wellbeing.

Whilst current figures are being assessed, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2021 that one in four people globally will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. They go on to say that around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide! Anecdotal evidence is strongly showing that the “post-Pandemic” figures will show a significant increase to what is already a staggering number of people living with mental health disorders.

According to research by Deloitte in 2022, the total annual cost of poor mental health to employers increased by 25% since 2019, totalling between £53-56 billion in 2020/2021.

Mental Health Data

But is mental health and mental illness the same thing? In short, no they’re not! By understanding the differences provides some insights into why, sometimes, we can overlook when someone needs help, and ensure they receive the correct treatment. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) points out that many individuals with poor mental health (our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing, affecting how we think, feel, and act), have not been formally diagnosed with a mental illness (including: anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, or schizophrenia). Also, many people who do have a diagnosed mental illness “can experience periods of physical, mental, and social wellbeing.”
 
This is when the stigma attached to mental health / mental illness causes further issues, discrimination and sadly creates a situation where people don’t talk about what is worrying them – some would say this coupled with a general lack of understanding between mental health and mental illness impacts on the way we interact with others, handle problems, and make decisions.
 
The way mental health and mental illness is handled is different across the globe, and the approaches that each country takes are sometimes at different stages especially in how they perceive the condition culturally! For this reason, having discussed this very topic recently with a number of senior HR professionals, all agreed one key challenge to having a robust wellbeing strategy is how to embed it across different countries. It is important, therefore, to adapt their wellbeing polices accordingly.
 
Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, not unlike other regions, the stigma around mental health (and mental illness!) is prevalent. It remains a barrier for people to openly discuss or access the right level of care – and in some countries, the limited infrastructure remains a further problem. For many countries across Eastern Europe, institutionalised care remains a barrier for those with mental health disorders – there is also a wider issue when it comes to professionals in these countries moving away, creating a backlog with limited numbers of people able to properly care for those who most need help!

Mental Health Data

A report from Notes from Poland, set out how the three-stage system in Poland aims to move part of the burden of mental health support from psychiatry wards to local institutions offering services of psychologists and counsellors. The system includes improvements to hospital infrastructure, launch of a round-the-clock helpline, online support and prevention programmes, as well as easier access to specialists.
 
In Lithuania, considerable stigma around mental health remains – the country’s mental health system is largely lacking clear pathways for care, with a heavy reliance on hospitals to provide what support they can.
 
A worrying yet consistent observation is the lack of care pathways available for mental health-related illnesses across Eastern Europe. For example, research on the state of the Serbian mental health system conducted by the German Association for International Cooperation, conducted in 2022, showed that approximately one-third of the population of Serbia have clinically significant disorders that can be related to the symptoms of at least one disorder, while one-fifth showed symptoms clinically indicative of two or more disorders.
 
Having talked with our team in Turkey recently about mental health and wider disorders, the growing number of people being diagnosed, and seeking treatment is growing there too! Anxiety and depression has significantly increased, and according to the data of the Ministry of Health of Turkey (MoH), nearly one-fifth of the population face mental health issues, over three-million people suffer from depression, and of a population of about 83 million, some 9 million people seek mental health support in Turkey each year.
 
More proactive and preventative measures, coupled with ongoing reforms (and financial support) is needed in order to continue building a culture where employees (people!) feel comfortable talking about their mental health (and mental illnesses). It is unlikely the stigma will be removed, but collectively we can work towards removing this across as many cultures and countries as possible. One of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is “good health & wellbeing”, and the management of employee health and wellbeing must therefore remain a key agenda leadership agenda item, and core element of an employer’s employee value proposition.

Mental Health Data

Looking inwardly, at GrECo, we take a proactive approach when it comes to our peoples’ wellbeing – it is not a “tick-box” exercise for us! We have made employee wellbeing a priority that forms part of our culture, embedded within the DNA of our business.
 
For GrECo, looking after our people’s mental health is every day! The truth is in the pudding…by offering access to counselling, “wellbeing days off”, yoga, healthy food, stress prevention tools, and listening to what is not being said has created an environment where some of the stigma attached to mental health and mental illness has been broken down. Whilst all of these initiatives are great, having recently discussed this with our Head of Group HR, we are the first to admit our approach is not perfect yet, but it is a continual topic on our senior leadership agenda. For example, this forms part of regular discussions I have with my country Health & Benefit leaders to ensure our people are being listened to, supported, and importantly watching out for the “unseen” changes in behaviour and health. We believe a “one-size-fits-all” strategy is no longer an option, our people are all different and in return they should have a safe environment to be able to talk about what is affecting them and be reassured a more tailored approach to looking after their mental health is in place!
 
Whatever the differences in regions, all employers need to focus on developing a mental health and wellbeing strategy that promotes more openness around mental health and ensure they are supporting to people with mental illness. It can’t just be a tick box exercise. A “one-size-fits-all” approach is unlikely to be effective, as different countries are at different stages in their awareness of and acceptance of the issues related to mental health and mental illness.
 
The working culture, and making sure it’s not contributing to high levels of stress and anxiety is a key area to assess, on an ongoing basis. Offering greater flexibility and the ability to work at home could help employees deal with stress. Creating a working environment where people feel comfortable and able to ask for some time off if they need is all part of providing a supportive and open culture. Ensuring people know how to access help is vital too.
 
Often companies have mental health programmes in place, but employees don’t know where to go or feel uncomfortable asking, so focusing on communication around mental health support and ensuring employees know how to access appropriate pathways are key. Over the next few months, globally, we will have further occasions to also consider how to support our people such as World Menopause Month, Men’s Health Awareness week, International Stress Awareness week, Talk Money week, and of course not forgetting our children during Children’s Mental Health week – all forming part of the three core pillars of Financial, Mental and Physical Wellbeing.
 
So, as we approach World Mental Health Day on October 10, it creates an opportunity to really consider how we can create a more open  culture and consider how wellbeing strategies can support their employees’ wellbeing. Without doubt, prevention and early intervention is key, but reducing stigma is also important when talking about mental health, mental illness, or asking for help! Every day provides the opportunity for employers to demonstrate the steps they are taking to ensure their employees’ wellbeing is high on boardroom and leadership agendas, and how this is embedded within the company DNA!
 
We have come a long way already. Wellbeing is a complex dynamic between the culture of the company, the work environment, and the mental, physical, psychological and social health of its employees but more needs to be done to ensure this discussion becomes an intrinsic part of the day-to-day company culture.
 
 

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Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits

T +44 (0) 7507 788 144

Menopause matters in the workplace!

In 2020 there were over 650 million women aged 45- 59, many contributing to the workforce throughout their menopausal years

October signifies World Menopause Month, the first held in October 2014, and the theme for 2022 is “Cognition & Mood”. It is a time to raise awareness, address support options for improving the wider health & wellbeing, and of course jointly looking at ways, globally, we can break down the barriers, which for many has become a “taboo” subject, in order for this to be widely and freely discussed without a stigma being attached.
 
The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee (UK) recently reported that over a third of women reported taking time off work due to menopause symptoms, which included problems with memory or concentration, anxiety/ depression and headaches. Additionally, a third of women didn’t tell work colleagues or Human Resources they were going through the menopause as were worried about the reaction of others!
 
As with other health & wellbeing related areas, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with the menopause at work, and with a steady rise of information becoming available (and misinformation) can be overwhelming and confusing. Whilst the menopause isn’t a mental health condition, changes in hormones during menopause can impact mental health as well as a woman’s physical health.

A key challenge for Human Resources is how to embed a robust wellbeing strategy across different countries.
 
In 2020 there were over 650 million women aged 45- 59, many contributing to the workforce throughout their menopausal years. The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55 but can sometimes happen earlier naturally, and usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years. The duration can depend on lifestyle factors such as smoking, age it begins, and race and ethnicity.

Workplace health and wellbeing frameworks and policies should therefore incorporate menopausal health as part of the wider context of gender and age equality and reproductive and post-reproductive health. With menopausal women now the fastest-growing workforce demographic, menopause is no longer an issue employers can ignore!
 
A 2021 report by the Fawcett Society, found that more than half of women and transgender men experiencing menopause said their symptoms had made them less likely to want to apply for a promotion (Menopause in the Workplace: Impact on Women in Financial Services (Fawcett Society, 2021).

Meanwhile, when looking at menopause In Australia, where women make up 57% of the higher-education workforce and 78% of the health and social-care sector, a survey last year of menopausal women working in health care and universities discovered that many felt guilty about their perceived underperformance. (Riach, K. & Jack, G. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 18, 10793 (2021).
 
In 2019 a UK survey of 1,400 women experiencing menopause symptoms found that nearly two-thirds were less able to concentrate at work, more than half experienced more stress and nearly one-third took sick leave because of symptoms.

The reality is these are not isolated results, but the Australian study identified respondents disagreeing on whether employers should introduce menopause-specific policies. Some felt such policies might marginalise older female workers.
 
Looking at Turkey – following research undertaken (ending January 2020) by Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, they went on to recommend that the Turkish health system should design wider health promotional programmes and counselling services to promote positive attitudes towards menopause in women during the climacteric period. This research was carried out to assess the attitudes towards menopause in Turkey, in order to plan more comprehensive healthcare pathway promotions. The recommendations made followed responses of two-thirds of participating women experiencing the menopause reported it has / had a negative impact on them.
 
Meanwhile, in the UK, Channel 4 recently surveyed over 4,000 UK women, aged 45-55 and experiencing the perimenopause or menopause. The results were staggering! 77% of women experienced at least one “very difficult” symptom and 69% experienced some form of anxiety or depression due to the menopause. Meanwhile, inflexible dress codes were shown to cause discomfort, particularly for key workers and women working in semi-skilled and unskilled manual operations roles.

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The New Focus on Talent

Digital transformation, demographic change, increasing complexity and a global virus are leading to a continuous process of change. For those responsible for Human Resources, this situation brings new opportunities and challenges.

Read more …

Gabriele Andratschke

Head of Group Human Resources

T +43 664 962 39 18

Adam Riley becomes new Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits for GrECo

GrECo has appointed Adam Riley as Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits, a newly created executive leadership role, to run, build and develop GrECo’s specialist Health & Benefits business across 17 countries throughout Central & Eastern Europe (CEE).
 
Adam joins from Howden Group where he was Director of Global Sales, Employee Benefits, part of their specialist Global Employee Benefits Practice Group. Adam was also the Howden One International Network Global Employee Benefits Manager for Howden’s own international network. Previously, Adam held senior roles at Aon, Portus Consulting and Pannells in the UK.

Georg Winter, CEO GrECo Group commented: “We warmly welcome Adam to GrECo and are delighted he has joined us at this very important juncture in our growth. Adam is highly regarded and well-respected across the Health & Benefits profession, he brings significant experience, insights, and importantly as we have already seen, a fresh outlook to GrECo. On behalf of the Executive Board, I personally wish Adam every success in the role.

So, Adam, welcome to GrECo! Why did you decide to join GrECo?
Following the acquisition of MAI CEE, GrECo has become the leading specialist insurance broker & consultant across CEE. The creation of my new role to run, build and develop GrECo´s growing Health & Benefits (H&B) business reflects the demands of clients and employers across countries in which they operate. We will relaunch our H&B offering across CEE, and wider international markets and thus follow our growth strategy to become the leading Health & Benefits consultancy across CEE, which further enhances the value proposition for clients, partners and carriers.
 
What key topics are you seeing employer’s discussing?
Beyond insured benefits, employers are looking at other factors which are part of the wider HR & organisational strategy. Areas such as, ESG (Environment, Social and Governance), alignment of benefits with corporate objectives, employee value proposition and achieving a balanced work / life harmony across their domestic and international workforce, are impacting decisions around benefits design and strategy.
 
What do you feel employers are looking for from a H&B partner?
A great question! Employers want to work with a trusted loyal partner who will provide greater support and tailored and progressive solutions, coupled with expert and professional advice, ensuring they have the right benefits, strategy, and direction in place to meet the changing needs of their employees and business.
 
Tell us about the Adam, outside of work:
I’m married, with two daughters. I also love SCUBA diving – and am a PADI Assistant Instructor. When I’m not talking H&B, the two most fantastic places in the world are either being with my family, or underwater!
 
Thanks, Adam. A final word from you?
Joining GrECo in their next phase of strategic growth is hugely exciting and provides an amazing opportunity to build and run their H&B business. I am hugely excited to be part of this team and its future strategy.

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Corona triggers boom in life insurances

No pension cuts as a result of losses in securities investments, but a guaranteed secure retirement provision in times of crisis: classic life insurance is back in high demand. Triggered by the Corona crisis, it is experiencing a new upswing as a form of retirement provision.

As can be read in the current finance news on http://www.procontra-online.de, the number of life insurance policies in Germany rose by 34% (!) at the high point of the COVID-19 crisis. This is the result of a survey conducted by Swiss Life Germany among 1.3 million customers.

Awareness of safety is increasing

The corona virus not only triggered the worst economic crisis since World War II, but also a boom for life insurances. Suddenly the need of the long-term security in the age precaution is again in the focus and less the highest possible investment success. A failure impairs the preventive effect. Particularly “sustainable” when securities funds, which should serve as “retirement provisions”, crash immediately before retirement, such as the state-owned Japanese pension fund – incidentally the largest in the world (according to Kurier online from 04.07.2020). This fund posted a loss of EUR 146 billion in the first quarter of 2020, that is 11% of its total value – a disaster and also the worst decline since the 2008 financial crisis.

A fund can cope with such a crash for a maximum of a year before pension payments have to be reduced. There is therefore a risk that pensions will be cut immediately upon retirement or soon afterwards. This is not possible with classic life insurance policies.

The performance of classic life insurance versus the long-term development of securities: The uncertainty factor is volatility, not the long-term return!

The well-known MSCI World Index of Morgan Stanley Capital International, tracks the historical development of 1,600 shares from 23 industrialized countries. Its long-term performance is somewhat higher than that of a classic life insurance policy (+/- 40%), but the volatility is also very pronounced. There can therefore be large upward and downward fluctuations. This is in contrast to the classic pension insurance, where there is no loss of capital shortly before as well as after the retirement and thus no pension cuts.

Only the classic pension insurance can prevent capital market risks and pension cuts – both private and commercial via the pension commitment reinsurance.

The investment of a classic pension insurance (= a form of classic life insurance with guaranteed, lifelong pensions, called “pension commitment reinsurance” at company level) is made in a classic cover pool. This is a very conservative and safety-oriented investment and is based on strict legal regulations, which are just as strictly controlled and monitored.

In life insurance, the strategic focus is on security and not on the exploitation of return opportunities. This can prevent the effects of capital market risks. This should be taken into account when combining different financial products – from old-age provision to asset accumulation – and also differentiated accordingly.

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Guido Teutsch

Specialist Employee Benefits

T +43 5 04 04 – 247

Sustainable Finance – a new basis for private pension schemes

EU climate policy with huge impact on insurance based investment products

With the target of making Europe climate-neutral by 2050 the European Union is publishing some regulations with direct impact on the products of the financial market.

Keyword Sustainable Finance

The basis is the “Regulation to facilitate sustainable investment” 2020/852 EU that was published on June 18th, 2020. It is also called briefly Regulation on “Taxonomy” or “Sustainable Finance”. It makes a classification which investments are in compliance with the six environmental objectives:

  • climate change mitigation,
  • climate change adaptation,
  • sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources,
  • transition to a circular economy, waste prevention and recycling,
  • pollution prevention and control and
  • protection of healthy ecosystems

and will therefore be considered as sustainable investments. The first two objectives will apply from January 1st, 2022, the four remaining from January 1st, 2023. The classification of concrete investments (for instance decarbonisation) and benchmarks (e.g. the 2° C limitation of global warming) is being prepared.

In most cases, investments mean the use of foreign capital as bonds, credits, share capital, which can be offered to investors also as packaged products, for instance for saving money for future pensions. Therefore the Regulation on “Taxonomy” is accompanied by Regulation 2019/2088 “on sustainability‐related disclosures in the financial services sector”. This one has already been published and will apply from March 10th, 2021. There is a deadline for implementing the technical standards of details to be disclosed until January 1st, 2022. The Regulation stipulates full information and transparency on sustainable investments and activities including risks and adverse impacts resulting therefrom and will focus in the first instance on the field of “energy efficiency”. This is valid for the activities of the companies working in the financial sector as well as for the promotion of financial products and advice given in connection with them.

Effects on life insurance

Part of the financial products are Insurance based investment products (IBIP), i.e. life insurance products the value of which is exposed to market fluctuations. Among them we find unit linked or index linked insurances but also traditional life insurances and pension schemes. There is a dispute in some countries whether classical life insurances without explicit connection to an investment product belong to these, but the matter stands without clarification so far. All these products will have to offer in future information on the sustainability of the underlying investment or on the distribution of the investment portfolio according to the criteria of the Regulation, in addition to the existing information on capital security, interest rates, portfolio distribution to branches and countries and similar data. It may be expected that there will be numerous new products with sustainability as their main feature.

This leads to an extension of the advice offered by the insurance intermediary. Besides questioning the client in respect of his economical demands and needs he has to find out also the client’s ideas and preferences in respect of sustainable investments and must offer him adequate products. Of course, the “Best Advice” principle applies, the important aspect is to find the best financial solution for the client. Sustainable products that are more expensive than traditional products or have a higher capital and revenue risk can be placed only upon clear order of the client. This shall be stipulated by a third EU regulation in connection with the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD), the details of which are currently under discussion.

We shall continuously report on further changes and developments regarding financial products.

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Andreas Krebs

Andreas Krebs

Head of Insurance Mediation Services

T +43 5 0404 229