It’s not surprising many of us are suffering a post-Christmas financial hangover. According to The Bank of England the average costs for gifts, entertaining and transport, means a typical household spends over £500 extra in December.
However, it’s not only the beginning of the year when people experience financial stress. In fact, money worries are thought to cost the UK economy £121 billion a year in lost productivity. Those with debt problems are twice as likely to develop depression, so it makes sense for businesses to have strategies to support employee wellbeing all year round.
Look at the bigger picture
A report by Barclays suggests it’s savings, not income, which determines a person’s financial wellbeing. By helping employees put some of their earnings aside on a regular basis, employers can assist in reducing worries which can affect employee health and workplace performance.
Many third-party providers offer corporate education or financial literacy programs, so why not see if they can assist in offering free workshops or seminars led by financial experts to your business?
Through consistent financial education, companies can inspire workers to make plans and shrewd long-term choices throughout the year. Seminars and workshops can help individuals set and achieve monetary goals, plus equip them with budgeting and saving tips, to help them better manage day-to-day finances.
Putting such practices in place ensures staff can prepare for the unexpected and allows them to have control of finances year-round so larger expenses, like Christmas, won’t feel so draining.
Create a sense of security
Research from Comparethemarket reveals the average person with debt is in the red by over £8,000 (excluding mortgage repayments) and 12 percent of those individuals believe they will never be debt-free.
The financially vulnerable are more at risk of seeking help from payday loans or credit cash advances, and rolling such loans over within a month can pull borrowers deeper into debt.
Don’t wait for the start of a new financial year to communicate available support to employees. At Unum, we developed a Workplace Communications Blueprint as a resource for employers to help employees understand what’s on offer and improve take-up rates. The research shows employees prefer a range of different methods to receive benefits communications – one size does not fit all.
In an era of devices, you may be fooled into thinking your employees want purely digital benefits communication. However, people still value the human, expert touch when it comes to making serious life decisions.
For example, a US study by Health Advocate Solutions found that 71 percent of workers prefer telephone contact for personal and emotional wellbeing concerns and 61 percent want a face-to-face meeting to discuss managing chronic conditions.
According to BMG Research, employees with access to a strong wellness programme are twice as likely to believe their employer genuinely cares about their health, which can increase employee engagement by up to 31 percent.
When devising your wellness strategy, consider the health trinity – physical, mental and financial employee wellness – and how they’re all interlinked.
For example; Barclays’ Financial Wellbeing report found 46 percent of workers worry about finances, and lost productivity due to money worries impacts the bottom line by 4 percent.
By understanding the link between money and mental health, you’ll be able to better recognise potential ill-health triggers and how you can help your staff.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are particularly valuable when employees require additional emotional support. EAPs offer direct, confidential communication with experts who can support individuals with areas causing emotional distress, from family or money issues to work-related problems and mental illness.
You can find ways to promote physical wellness during the working day too. Encourage staff to make most of their lunch hour and try to go outside – even if it’s just for ten minutes. You could enhance the positive effects by starting a company running or walking club. Any steady movement you enjoy boosts endorphins and will leave staff feeling calmer and happier.
High earners aren’t exempt from money woes
It can be easy to think your employees on the lower end of the pay scale are more vulnerable to financial ill-health, but money worries are income-agnostic and can affect anyone.
CIPD revealed 20 percent of employees earning between £45,000-£60,000 and 14 percent earning £60,000 plus report financial worries affect their work.
To build workplace financial and emotional resilience, look beyond salaries and seniority to create a coherent strategy which helps you see the issues impacting your organisation across the board.
Consider what the uptake of financially-focused benefits, EAP traffic, sick leave or flexible working requests tells you. Your company can develop suitable internal support and opportunities based on this information, so you can intervene early and avert problems escalating.
By Liz Walker, HR Director, Unum UK