During the coronavirus pandemic, people have seen their work hours slashed or salary reduced. Many workers already struggled with worries about their financial wellbeing. With unemployment rates rising and the UK entering a recession, those worries are becoming more concerning.
Research from Open Up Challenge 2020, found that financial pressure has a worse effect on mental wellbeing than health worries for 21% of people.
At this time, it’s more important than ever that employers provide support for financial wellbeing in the workplace.
What is financial wellbeing?
Financial wellbeing is the way an individual feels about their financial situations.
Positive financial wellness allows you to have a clear view of their finances and work towards financial goals, without limiting your life.
People with poor financial wellbeing often feel anxiety about their financial future, which can have a significant impact on their mental health.
How debt can impact employee performance
The average UK household is over £9,000 in debt, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Money worries can affect workers in a number of different ways. Including anxiety, depression, and stress.
These can affect people in different ways and as a result can affect an employee’s performance in various negative ways.
- Missed deadlines and mistakes in work
- Frequent lateness
- Increased risk of on-site accidents
- Less likely to engage with colleagues
- Absenteeism or presenteeism
Absenteeism is a frequent, unexplained absence from work, whereas presenteeism is where an employee makes sure they attend work even when they feel unwell.
Poor financial wellbeing can result in both outcomes as employees either feel unable to attend work, or worried about their job security if they take a day off.
How can employers support financial wellbeing?
In a 2019 financial wellbeing survey by Perkbox, almost 1 in 5 employed adults said their financial wellbeing was either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
So what can employers do to help improve financial wellbeing?
Subsidise travel costs for commuters
The most simple way that employers can alleviate their employees’ money worries, is to reduce their outgoing costs.
One way to do this is by subsiding travel costs for commuters.
Depending on where your employees are travelling from, there are a few different options for how to implement this.
- Company cars
- Cycle To Work schemes
- Subsidised public transport
Company cars are an expensive option for employers, but if the employee frequently travels for work, it can be a justifiable expense.
Cycle To Work schemes are a more cost-effective alternative, with the bonus of being better for the environment. Plus, studies have shown that adults who exercise daily are less likely to suffer from depression.
If a number of employees are interested in accessing a cycle scheme, it may be worth investing in bicycle storage and a changing room in the workplace.
Finally, providing cost effective benefits for workers travelling via public transport can be the option that gets the most uptake from your staff.
The important thing to remember when implementing any of these travel benefits, is to cover the costs upfront rather than asking employees who are already worried about money to pay and expense any travel costs.
Offer flexible schedules to help with childcare fees
As well as helping with travel costs, it’s worth considering whether your employers need to commute at all.
Many people can work from home, and in the pandemic have been asked to do so.
And a survey from the Institute of Directors recently found that 74% of company directors plan to keep increased home working for their employees after the coronavirus pandemic is over.
Rather than thinking about how to safely return to work, it could be worthwhile to consider updating your remote working policy indefinitely.
Being able to work from home can save employees money on commuting, childcare costs and money spent on lunch.
You don’t need to plan to go completely remote, and in fact, doing so could have a negative impact on employees mental health in the long term.
Provide subsidised or free meals during working hours
If your employees can’t work remotely, you can help to reduce their outgoings by providing reduced cost or free meals to them during the workday.
With the average employee spending £8 a day on work lunches, providing food can result in meaningful savings for staff.
Many larger companies do this through having a subsidised staff canteen.
It also helps to ensure your workers make healthy choices, which can improve mood and productivity.
Be more open with employees
While your employees will appreciate any measures you introduce that help them save money, these actions don’t encourage your staff to talk about problems they are facing.
Whether financial wellbeing or other issues contributing towards an individual’s mental health, your team should be encouraged to ask for help. This means providing more upfront support.
An employee assistance programme (EAP) is a service that gives staff access to confidential support helpline and counselling for specific issues, including:
- Mental health issues
- Physical health and wellbeing concerns
- Stress at home or in the workplace
- Bereavement and family matters
- Financial issues, including debt
These services allow your staff to talk through their issues, confidentially, with people trained to provide financial advice.
Additionally, you can run financial literacy workshops for all of your staff. These workshops will provide useful advice that is relevant to workers currently going through financial hardship, as well as those that don’t need urgent support.
These actions can encourage your employees to be more open about issues that are affecting their work and lets them know that you are there to help them.
While there is only so much an employer can do to support staff with financial difficulties, simply being aware of their concerns can help you to be more compassionate.
The recession means that UK households are set to have less disposable income and higher levels of debt. People don’t need to be in a dire financial situation to feel the effects.
It’s important that employers are aware of this and ensure they provide support that is sensitive and non-intrusive.