Given the huge effect it has on our overall mental health, financial wellbeing is something we all need to take seriously.
Right now, however, in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, many of us will be finding that a sense of financial wellbeing is hard to come by. People are frightened. In fact, the latest ONS figures suggest that four-in-five (83%) of us have already been impacted by rising food, energy and petrol prices. It’s hardly surprising, then, that as many as two-in-three UK employees say money worries are affecting their mental health, while three-in-five agree that financial distress is impacting their performance at work.
2 in 3 employees say money worries are affecting their mental health
3 in 5 employees believe that financial distress is impacting their performance at work
Employment plays a key role in wellbeing, not only because mental ill health can impact our productivity, but also because of the sheer amount of time we spend at work. Businesses have every reason to be invested in their employees’ financial wellbeing. And yet, right now, half (49%) of working UK adults receive no support from their employer on how to understand their finances, according to research by Wealth at Work. A separate report found that only a quarter (24%) of us think our employer even cares about our financial wellbeing. This is concerning to say the least.
How can we change this?
Employers might worry about what providing a path to financial security means, assuming they will have to increase salaries or award large bonuses. But this needn’t be the case. Caring about your team’s financial wellness could just as easily mean providing access to financial tracking services, external advice around money and budgeting or putting in place a loan scheme.
Employees could take out a loan and then make the repayments via their monthly pay packet
In reality, there is plenty that can be done to support the financial wellbeing of your workforce, without breaking the bank.
Worrying about paying a bill or making a deposit can be incredibly distracting while you’re trying to work. As an organisation, you could consider allowing some flexibility for employees to deal with high-pressure financial situations during the working day, rather than only doing so outside working hours or during their lunchbreak. For example, there should be some leniency if a colleague is buying a house or dealing with fraudulent activity on their credit card. Allowing people to spend a few minutes dealing with these sorts of situations could very well stop them spending the rest of the working day feeling anxious about the situation, which will, in all likelihood, impact their productivity.
Offering the right benefits
Beyond providing a salary or pension, the financial wellbeing of employees has not been something which most organisations would historically been involved in. However, the right benefits offering – something most companies already try to provide – can go a long way to help. Employees will often be particularly appreciative of a benefits package that’s tailored to different stages of life. After all, a new parent is more likely to be more interested in childcare support, than a discounted gym membership.
This does vary from person to person of course, and we shouldn’t box people into categories. But with some solid research and even feedback from colleagues on what they would find valuable, a few adjustments to your existing benefits package could be instrumental to your financial wellbeing strategy.
Ultimately there is no one size fits all when it comes to helping your employees with their financial wellbeing – but talking to them and finding out what they need is a great first step.
Asking the right questions
An alarming piece of research has found that three-quarters (73%) of employees have never spoken to their employer or line manager about their financial wellbeing. This is a problem, considering that in order to assist, businesses need to be engaging in healthy, productive conversations about financial wellbeing.
Most of us struggle to admit when we’re in trouble, especially if the difficulties we’re facing concern money. It’s for this reason that employers need to be taking the lead, encouraging transparency and being clear about the workplace support that’s available. If an employee feels they have the genuine support of their employer, without fear of judgement, they will be much more likely to open up.
In short, there’s a lot that employers can do during these troubling times for their employees. And with such a small number of employees believing their organisations even care about their financial wellbeing, it seems there’s a lot to be done when it comes to the more human/ soft skills and communication between employer and employee.
That said, there is hope. A new report suggests that four-in-five employers are planning to boost their financial wellbeing support offerings, putting a particular focus on communication, education and decision-making support. This is encouraging. But what we need, now, is to see those plans being put into action, and for employees to feel that their wellbeing is, indeed, a priority.
Author: Ajay Maisuria, Senior Employment Advisor at Vita Health Group
IAPT services – talking therapies provide support for anxiety and depression and can include support for employment related difficulties.
Local Authority/Council – can provide information on local support and information on Food banks to gain essential food items.
Money & Pension Service – Money Helper service for help with finances
ACAS – impartial advice and best practice to deal problems at work.