Stephanie Dwilson

Do Your Employees Need Financial Wellness Support?

Is stress taking a toll on your employees? While many sources of worry are beyond your control, you can help your employees deal with others — even some of those that don’t originate in the workplace.

The American Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in America survey found that money was the second-largest cause of stress among Americans (behind only concerns about the future of the U.S.). But financial problems don’t have to give your employees gray hair.

Bringing employee financial wellness to your workplace can benefit your employees’ peace of mind — not to mention their wallets. It could even have some positive effects on your company’s bottom line, too.

The Impact of Financial Stress in the Workplace

Employee stress is more than just an individual problem. A 2016 survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) found that four out of five companies say their employees’ financial troubles are somewhat, very or extremely impactful on how they perform at work. The report also confirmed what most people already know — that stress has a negative effect on the body and the mind. According to the survey, workers dealing with high amounts of financial stress suffer from fatigue, headaches, depression and overall poor health.

When employees hurt financially, employers do, too. Employees with overwhelming financial stress or who are financially unstable bring short- and long-term expenses to their employers, usually in the form of absenteeism, payroll taxes, garnishments and delayed retirement, according to Financial Finesse. This would be a problem even on a relatively small scale — however, 82 percent of employees suffer from some level of financial stress. As the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries notes, an employer with 10,000 workers might lose $3.3 million a year because of the loss of productivity incurred by employees’ financial stress.

How to Bring Financial Wellness to the Workplace

Because money is generally considered such a private subject, it can be intimidating to create a program based on discussing financial stability. Here are some tips to for starting and running an employee financial wellness program.

  • Look for signs of financial stress among employees. It’s likely that at least some of your employees are facing some level of financial insecurity. Be aware of signs that your workforce is financially stressed — anything from workers asking for pay advances, missing full days of work because of transportation issues or even receiving treatment for medical issues that could have easily been avoided through preventive care. When you look at stress through the lens of financial wellness, you might find a greater need than you expected.
  • Mold the program to your workforce. A good employee financial wellness plan will shift to meet the needs of your workforce. Consider polling staff members anonymously to find out what kinds of financial problems they’d like to learn more about. If your employees are hesitant to speak up about their financial troubles, then go after the likely causes of financial stress. The IFEBP report found that most workers are stressed about debt, retirement savings, children’s education savings, basic living expenses and medical costs. As you develop your financial wellness program, try to present your employees with the information that will benefit them the most.
  • Shine a spotlight on health care. Employees who are financially healthy are better able to leverage their health care plans. They’re more likely to seek out preventive care and are in a better position to comfortably pay for prescriptions, doctors’ appointments and medical emergencies. Nearly half of adults say they would struggle to cover a sudden $400 expense — less than a quarter of the cost of the average emergency room trip. Employees who are able to make the most of their health insurance are a more engaged and productive workforce.
  • Bring in an expert. Topics like debt counseling, preretirement planning and budgeting can be overwhelming to research on your own. Classes and workshops led by an expert can be interactive and inspiring experiences for employees struggling to manage their financial health. Bringing employees together to discuss financial wellness can also foster a supportive community. And since finances can be a taboo subject among American workers, exploring these topics openly is a good way to normalize financial discussions.
  • Look into joining an employee assistance program (EAP). EAPs are typically offered by third parties, such as your health insurance carrier. They provide a variety of confidential services, including individual financial counseling — the most desired form of financial education among employees.
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Supporting your employees’ financial wellness is another way of supporting their overall health. While financial wellness programs do take some work to get off the ground, the benefits to your staff and your business can make it well worth the effort.

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