A pulse on total well-being at work 

21 June 2023

A global diagnostic survey

Employers worldwide are digging in like never before to learn what experiences employees want from their careers, their workplaces and how these intertwine with their lives. This is precisely the input they need to create thriving, healthy, energized workforces.

To help business leaders and people managers get a pulse on total well-being at work, we asked 135 employers from around the world to assess their efforts in supporting employees physically, mentally, financially, and socially1.

What is total well-being at work?

Total well-being at work combines employees' best health, happiness, financial stability, and purposeful career to create compelling employee experiences. Such experiences are aligned with effective reward and people programs – such as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) – and are supported by state-of-the-art technology.

Only 50% of employees are satisfied with their current position and employer.

Employee needs have changed

We learned that what people want from work has stayed the same, but how they want to engage with work has changed. Historically, organizations focused on retaining and motivating employees by meeting their basic pay, benefits and psychological needs. But today's successful employers are concentrated on a Thrive Contract that meets employees' well-being needs as they relate to purpose, equity and impact. The employer/employee contractual continuum is expanding towards a Lifestyle Contract that embraces employees' choices, connections, and contributions for personal fulfillment.

The evolution of employer/employee contracts

What people want from work fundamentally has not changed but how they want to engage with work has.

  • Focus: Retain
  • Employer is meeting basic needs: Pay, benefits and security
  • Workers are assets to be retained
  • Pay and benefits for time and output

  • Focus: Motivate
  • Employer considers psychological needs: Achievement, camaraderie and meaning
  • Employees are assets to be acquired and optimized
  • Broader set of rewards (pay, benefits, career, experiences) in exchange for organizational engagement

  • Focus: Recover
  • Employer considers well-being needs: Purpose, equity and impact
  • Human-led, technology enabled: People and machines work together for maximum value creation
  • Broader set of rewards (pay, benefits, career, experiences) in exchange for organizational engagement

  • Focus: Energize
  • Employer considers fulfilment needs: Choice, connection and contribution
  • Human-centered, partnership built: People across the talent ecosystem partner to build sustainable systems
  • Total rewards that include flexibility and employability in exchange for continued relevance. Fairer outcomes achieved

Thriving employees


more likely to say they work in a healthy workplace.


more likely to say their mental health is supported.


more likely to trust their company to prepare them for retirement.


more likely to feel connected to coworkers when working remotely.

The Thrive Contract largely replaced the more unidimensional Engagement Contract, which dominated the 2000s focused on achievements, camaraderie, and providing meaning in work. The emerging Lifestyle Contract embraces the intertwining of work and life so employees can enter authentic dialogues about what they want from their employment arrangements. For example, our Global Talent Trends survey found that one in three employees would forgo a pay raise for additional well-being benefits for themselves or their families and additional flexibility at work. And more than three in five employees will only join or stay with a company if they can work remotely/hybrid, forcing employers to reimagine new work contracts and reframe work-life integration.2

1 in 3 employees would forgo a pay raise for additional well-being benefits for themselves or their family and additional flexibility at work.

Key findings from the total well-being study

The organizations in our survey reported on their progress with the four pillars of well-being.

Community and social well-being

  • Current strengths:

    Employers reported a strong focus on DEI, clearly defining fair outcomes for diverse groups and creating purpose and flexibility.

    • 76% agree/strongly agree that they have clearly defined DEI objectives, and 70% monitor the outcomes for diverse groups.
    • 81% have flexible working options needed for employees to thrive.
    • Nine in 10 employers (91%) actively work to ensure the quality of work is satisfying and fulfilling for employees.
  • Future opportunities:

    Employers have room for improvement in how they treat their alternative workforce (such as gig and contract workers).

    • 46% disagree/strongly disagree with the statement, "Our alternative workforce is as supported as our permanent workers in terms of HR policies and relevant benefits."

Physical well-being

  • Current strengths:

    Most employers have developed a comprehensive health and well-being strategy, which includes access to digital health solutions.

    • 59% said they provide minimum standards in healthcare benefits.
    • 83% provide access to digital health solutions.
  • Future opportunities:

    Employers need to be better at setting and measuring health outcomes for their programs and provide annual health assessments for employees.

    • 58% disagree/strongly disagree with the statement, "Our organization sets goals and measures health outcomes regularly."
    • Only 39% offer annual health assessments.

Financial well-being

  • Current strengths:

    Of all the pillars of well-being, financial well-being remains the one where employers have the most opportunity, especially in the current times of economic turbulence. While all employers demonstrated efforts to support financial well-being, most of their offerings were found to need more impact.
  • Future opportunities:

    Most organizations still need a comprehensive strategy for employee financial well-being amid economic turbulence and increasingly long life expectancy.

    • Less than one in two (47%) provide access to financial education.
    • 42% offer the minimum standards around financial benefits.
    • Only 35% thought they offered a comprehensive strategy to support employees in times of financial crisis.

Mental and emotional well-being

  • Current strengths:

    Organizations have prioritized mental health, helping employees find flexibility, purpose, growth, and belonging at work, supported by access to digital health solutions.

    • 80% believe they have created a culture of support.
    • 60% offer the minimum standards around mental health care.
  • Future opportunities:

    A relatively low-effort/high-impact area of potential improvement is to provide mental health training for managers and adequately identify and support employees' mental health concerns.

    • Only 37% of employers have suitable training for managers to identify and support employees' mental health concerns correctly.

Spotlight on the Technology Sector

Our research took a deep dive into the tech vertical market3 and discovered the following:
  • Strengths and opportunities for the technology sector are broadly aligned with insights across general industries. Technology sector employers are particularly strong in their focus on providing accessible and effective services for employees' mental health and well-being.
  • While other industries are not yet as comfortable with financial well-being, approximately half of tech sector organizations indicate they have a financial well-being strategy in place, incorporating financial education and global minimum standards. Technology employers also showed more comfort with physical health and mental well-being strategies than employers in other sectors.
  • The technology sector is more likely than the general industry to believe their employees have the flexible working options they need to thrive.
  • The technology sector needs more support in developing and sharing effective impact metrics for well-being initiatives, which is a similar finding across all industries.

Future state

While employers have been actively implementing well-being programs, there is an opportunity to develop and enhance the needed impact metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of global well-being practices and be able to communicate results to stakeholders. Only 18% of employers said they had clear impact metrics in place, and another 18% did not know if they did.

The survey found that a slight majority (54%) of employers use behavioral nudges to ensure employees can effectively navigate and use their benefits. The efficient use of behavioral nudges is one of the most successful ways to optimize employee choices. This continues to be an opportunity to improve employee well-being outcomes.


of organizations utilize behavioral nudges to help all employees navigate their benefits, providing auto-enrollment and default options where possible.


have clear impact metrics across all pillars of well-being that are monitored consistently and reported to the board.

Measuring success: Why metrics matter

As part of our ongoing work with the World Economic Forum, we created a framework of goals, metrics and targets to make Good Work a reality to help organizations attract and retain talent successfully. This involves facilitating a group of global, cross-industry, forward-thinking companies focused on building a resilient, equitable, inclusive, more just and human-centric future of work. One of the core goals of this collective is to safeguard total well-being at work. Specifically, this requires the broad goal of measuring the percentage of employees with access to lifestyle and financial well-being management programs, chronic disease support, and health insurance.

The right metrics to measure

The Good Work Alliance recommends the following metrics to evaluate the progress toward more granular well-being goals. 

  1. The number and rate of fatalities due to work-related injury, high-consequence work-related injuries (excluding fatalities), recordable work-related injuries, and main types of work-related injuries. 
  2. Findings of employee experience surveys, pulse surveys, etc., related to psychological safety. 


  1. Average notice time for communicating non-standard work schedules.
  2. Findings of employee experience surveys, pulse surveys, etc., related to satisfaction concerning overall workload.


  1. Findings of employee experience surveys, pulse surveys, etc., related to how much workers feel valued by the organization.
  2. Findings of employee experience surveys, pulse surveys, etc., related to purpose at work.

Actions employers can take now

To elevate and improve total well-being at your place of work, we recommend the following five steps for the most significant immediate impact:
  1. Tune in with various listening techniques to know what employees need for total well-being at work such as digital focus groups, in-person interviews, surveys and manager training.
    Capture qualitative and quantitative input using various techniques. Different tools can be used for different purposes such as quantitative surveys to reach a lot of people very quickly and provide statistical insights. In contrast, focus groups take longer to collate input but provide rich insights. Together, these techniques will help inform a more comprehensive view. 
  2. Know where your company is on the contractual continuum 
    to move from a Thrive Contract to a Lifestyle Contract. Measure your baseline workforce at a specific time to see how they use benefit, health and well-being programs. Tap into metrics to assess absenteeism, claims ratios, premium rates, office usage, etc. As you move to a Lifestyle Contract, you would expect all of these to improve over time. This is where dashboards can help to quickly spotlight when and where transitions along the contractual continuum are changing.
  3. Use nudge techniques to help employees maximize well-being offerings and consider adopting an employee experience platform and communication campaigns.
    Effective nudge techniques can be applied to auto-enrollment into programs, default settings, team activities, and using AI to monitor and report on behavior. Naturally, nudges need to be communicated in a way that is consistent with your employer brand and the desired employee experience by using various approaches customized to different demographic groups. Nudges can work exceptionally well when tied to a timely moment, such as highlighting employee well-being benefits during Mental Health Awareness Week or Benefits Fairs.
  4. Know what metrics you need to assess your progress with total well-being at work accurately. 
    Collect as many metrics as easily accessible and sustainable for your organization, and work out what is helpful to monitor continuously. Align the metrics with the offerings in place and the objectives behind each. Suggested metrics, in addition to those noted by the Good Work  Alliance above, include absenteeism, recruitment, retention, workforce utilization, productivity, exit interviews and employee voice through listening techniques.
  5. Communicate well-being outcomes with all stakeholders.
    Promoting success reinforces what's working based on what can be measured and proven for different demographic groups throughout the organization to ensure fair and equitable benefits offerings for all. Effective messaging channels include newsletters, intranet, social media and corporate leadership messages. Overall brand messages can be shared via the company website particularly for prospective employees. Additionally, it's essential to establish a formal cascade process for line managers to have the information on success to communicate well-being progress and results effectively.

Are you looking to enhance your employee well-being strategy?

Take this brief survey to assess your company's approach to total well-being: the convergence of good health, happiness, financial stability, and a purposeful career.

The advantages of global benefits management

Building benefit strategies that work for everyone requires insight into the broad range of needs and preferences of different employee groups in your workforce, wherever they are in the world. Delivering centralized, high-quality benefits while contending with domestic and country-specific needs can present unique challenges. Using benefits to express company values to mitigate people's risks is important as life becomes more complex, chaotic and digital. To do it right, organizations need visibility and transparency over cost control, compliance, data, insights and governance.

Employers have the power to close healthcare gaps and support their employees holistically. Explore if your benefits are keeping up with the fast-changing times. 


  • David Barker, Multinational Client Segment Principal
  • Melody Kwan, Multinational Client Segment Principal
  • Aiyanna Lund, Mercer Marsh Benefits Bid Management Leader
  • Wolfgang Seidl, Ph.D., Workplace Health Consulting Leader
  • Lin Shi, Multinational Client Segment Principal
  • Yvonne Sonsino, Global Co-Leader Next State Partner
  • Gareth Williams, Multinational Client Segment Principal

1 Mercer’s Total Well-being diagnostic survey was conducted with 135 employers around the world, representing a broad range of industries. Forty-seven percent of the companies that participated had more than 10,000 employees. The survey was conducted by Mercer using an online survey tool between October 2022 and December 2022 with the report prepared 2023.

2 Global Talent Trends, 2023, Mercer

3 Mercer’s Total Well-being diagnostic survey was conducted with 23 technology employers.

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