Financial stress is a growing problem in the UK. 46% of employees worry about their finances, 20% say financial problems often interfere with their work and 18% of employees often lose sleep worrying about financial problems according to Barclays Corporate and Employer Solutions’ ‘Financial wellbeing: the last taboo in the workplace’ report.
With statistics like this it’s no surprise that financial problems are a leading cause of stress and are linked to further issues such as depression, lack of sleep and unhealthy behaviours like drinking. Whilst the main problem may be related to the person’s private financial situation it can make a significant impact on employees: they become unable to concentrate so their productivity and quality of work suffers, absenteeism rises, accidents increase, and all of this negatively impacts on the rest of the team who have to compensate.
The costs relating to financial stress can be damaging to both the employee and the employer.
What can employers do to help?
The direct link between financial stress and performance at work highlights the need for employers to provide employee benefits that improve the financial wellbeing of their employees. There are numerous benefits employers can offer their employees at very little cost to the company, for example:
- Cashback cards – As well as enabling employees to manage their money and budget, prepaid cashback cards can give employees the opportunity to earn an unlimited amount of cashback on their everyday shopping.
- Vouchers – Purchasing vouchers, either retail vouchers or childcare vouchers, through salary deduction schemes can help employees save money on everyday spending or save up for major purchases, and therefore avoid overspending on their credit card.
- Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – EAPs support employees with advice, assistance and counselling when they need it to help them manage and deal with their problems.
- Financial education initiatives – Workshops or events on a range of financial wellbeing subjects such as managing debt, saving for retirement, and managing your monthly budget can help employees manage their financial concerns.
Communications is key
Whilst it’s important to offer employee benefits that support financial wellbeing HR professionals need to ensure that a robust communication strategy is in place to guarantee that employees are aware of the benefits that are available to them, how those benefits can help them and how to access those benefits. This means that the communications about benefits should be simple, clear and routine. However, care does need to be taken to ensure that messages about financial wellbeing are communicated appropriately and does not embarrass employees.
A robust communications strategy will improve take-up of the benefits as well as boosting employee engagement and providing a return on investment.
It’s crucial to recognise that not everyone will have the same financial wellbeing needs. Employers need to offer a range of benefits that support financial wellbeing and segment their employees to provide personalised communications.
I would also add that because financial problems don’t just occur at a particular time of the year employees should be able to opt in to receiving these benefits at any time.
Stress may be a fact of life, but it is possible to stop it from becoming a significant problem in teh workplace. Employers can not only improve the wellbeing of their employees by offering financial wellbeing benefits but also the wellbeing of their business.