5 THINGS YOU COULD BE DOING TO SUPPORT YOUR EMPLOYEES’ FINANCIAL WELLBEING
Most of us are affected by financial stress and other worries at some point in our lives, undermining our ability to concentrate and do our jobs properly (and often keeping us from work altogether). In the wake of a pandemic that has had a big impact on people’s mental health, employers have a golden opportunity to support employees with their financial wellbeing. There are various ways of doing this, including facilitating discussions, holding workshops, distributing timely information and providing access to one-to-one guidance.
It’s no secret that when we’re stressed, our ability to concentrate and be effective at work is likely to be impaired.
That means employers can pretty much guarantee that at any given time, at least some of their employees will be affected by stress and/or mental-health issues that hinder their ability to do their job well.
After all, in a 2018 survey, three-quarters of respondents said they had felt so stressed in the past year that they had been overwhelmed or unable to cope (1).
That was before the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw an increase in the number of adults experiencing some form of depression double from 10% to 21% (2).
Financial worries are invariably a big part of all this. Money is a daily concern for 16% of adults in the UK, according to a Money and Pensions Service survey, with nearly half the adult population saying they had worried about money once a week or more in the previous month (3).
In some cases, it means employees aren’t able to do their job at all. It’s estimated that some 4.2 million worker days are lost each year due to a lack of financial wellbeing, equating to £626 million in lost output (4).
It’s clearly an issue that employers need to take seriously, primarily for the benefit of their employees, but also for the success of the organisation and the economy as a whole.
This means offering employees practical and emotional support for their financial wellbeing and their general mental health. Here are five ways in which you can start to do this:
1. Raise awareness of financial wellbeing
This includes aspects of education, such as explaining financial terminology, and facilitating conversations that can help employees to understand the nature of financial stress and how it might be affecting them.
“For instance, someone entering a financial-wellbeing workshop might not realise that finance is the main cause of their stress,” says Harriet Shepherd, Workplace Financial Wellbeing Manager at St. James's Place Wealth Management. “It might just be from conversations that people begin to understand the roots of their financial worries.”
2. Join the conversation
Each year, there are various opportunities for employers to take part in wider discussions about financial wellbeing and mental health, such as Mental Health Awareness Week (typically held in mid-May), Stress Awareness Month (each April) and Debt Awareness Week, which, in 2021, took place in late March.
St. James's Place is supporting the National Wellness Conversation, which works with organisations to encourage their people to talk more openly about their finances and enable them to tackle concerns, thereby reducing stress levels.
3. Offer practical support
Commit to giving employees access to a range of resources during work hours - this is when they are most likely to access them.
“Provide things like workshops and content to help employees get a better sense of how to deal with their financial worries, even if it’s just information that helps get them started,” says Shepherd.
The periods in which employees can decide whether or not they want to renew certain workplace benefits, such as salary sacrifice, can be a good time to do this.
“In the run-up to that window, you can put in place a communications plan and/or run workshops to help people understand those benefits and what they cost,” says Shepherd. “Articulating it at the right time is important.”
4. Communicate clearly
Explaining the various financial rewards and schemes you offer in a clear, accessible way can make employees more likely to engage with them.
“Offer specific sessions about those rewards and help employees understand the packages that are financially linked, such as health insurance, protection insurance and discounts with local firms,” suggests Shepherd. “These things are often overlooked, but they can make a real difference to people.”
Any information should be communicated on a timely basis. Research suggests that support is more impactful when it is related to circumstance or there are follow-up actions.
5. Bring in the professionals
Employers can engage wellbeing providers to conduct one-to-one guidance sessions with employees.
We can provide financial education in the workplace and support people in different circumstances, sometimes in collaboration with other wellbeing providers used by employers.
“If an employee wants to talk to someone but they're not ready to speak to an adviser, you can still provide them with useful one-to-one support,” Shepherd points out. “Our Partners will carry out guidance sessions with employees – this can be an initial chat rather than advice.”
1 Mental Health Foundation, Mental health statistics: stress, 2018 (Online poll undertaken by YouGov, with a sample size of 4,619 respondents)
2 Office for National Statistics, Coronavirus and depression in adults, Great Britain: January to March 2021(Opinions and Lifestyle Survey – sample size: 4,000 to 4,500 individuals per week achieved)
3 Money and Pensions Service; 'Shame, upbringing and burdening others: why 29m UK adults don't feel comfortable talking about money despite being worried about it'. November 2020. Sample size: 5,200 UK adults.
4 Centre for Economics and Business Research, Financial wellbeing and productivity, October 2018