According to a uSwitch survey, nearly £8.5bn was put on credit to cover the cost of gifts and entertaining last year for the holidays, with nearly a fifth of consumers exceeding their Christmas budget. But money worries can affect people at any time of the year.
As the CIPD revealed, one in four workers believe ongoing financial pressures have affected their ability to do their job. With these findings revealing the impact poor finances have on staff productivity and wellbeing, it makes sense to provide strategies to support financial, physical and emotional wellbeing all year round.
Plan for the long-term
Halifax Bank found that one in six people take a whole year to pay off the cost of Christmas spending. However, businesses can put measures in place to help prevent employees being under financial pressure, come Christmas.
Research shows staff want this help too. Some 48 per cent want more advice from workplaces on retirement savings, 22 per cent on learning how to live within budgets and 21 per cent on how to pay off existing debts.
Provide access to financial education all year round, through employee workshops and educational seminars. Topics can include debt management strategies, setting achievable financial goals, and leveraging benefits like Life Insurance and investment schemes. By enabling employees to control their finances, bigger expenses like the holidays won’t feel so damaging.
Be a safety-net
ONS research shows 137.3m working days are lost due to sickness or injury in the UK. In many cases, if employees don’t receive additional help and support provided by the insurer’s case management or rehabilitation team, this can significantly delay returning to work and cause longer-term financial stress.
When you think about benefits you offer and the unexpected hiccups, which could make individuals financially and emotionally vulnerable, consider the chance to provide additional protection. Benefits programmes help employees plan for the unforeseen. This allows them to focus on recovery and getting back to work, while improving your potential losses due to sickness absence.
Employers can adopt additional voluntary benefits providing staff with short-term financial assistance too. By adding options such as employee purchase programmes or low-interest installment loans, staff can avoid payday loans and credit card advances in emergencies.
Become an “all-rounder”
When devising a strategy, consider staff financial, physical and emotional wellbeing – and how they’re related. For example; financial stress costs the UK economy £121bn and 18m working hours in lost productivity every year. Money worries are also known to have an enormous effect on mental health.
Employers should take a holistic approach to employee wellness through financial education tools and benefits, especially knowing how emotional wellbeing has links with money worries. Access to employee assistance programmes (EAPs) provides direct, confidential contact with experts who can support with areas causing emotional distress, from money concerns to family or work-related issues to addiction and mental illness.
It’s important to get employees thinking about their personal lifestyle choices too and equip them with the knowledge to improve their own health and emotional wellbeing. For example, the University of Surrey found those who took part in a four-week online mindfulness course reported lower levels of work-related rumination, chronic fatigue and improved sleep.
Don’t forget high earners
It can be easy to think staff 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 even revealed 20 per cent of employees earning between £45,000-£60,000 and 14 per cent earning £60,000 plus report financial worries affect their work.
The findings suggest it is not just salary size preventing effective money management, but lack of time, the hassle of “saving” and financial jargon. So in order to build workplace financial and emotional wellbeing, look beyond salaries and seniority. Observe what’s happening in your organisation across the board – what does uptake of financially-focused benefits, EAP traffic, sick leave or flexible working requests tell you?
Developing appropriate internal support and opportunities based on this information, can enable earlier prevention and avert problems escalating. By providing comprehensive employee education programmes, businesses can work with staff, empowering them to identify solutions to improve emotional, physical and financial health. In this way, we can ensure employees are not just able to cope at work, but that they thrive and excel.
Liz Walker is HR director at Unum UK