Business must do more to promote workers’ financial wellbeing

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Half of the UK’s workers worry about money at least once a week and most feel unsupported by their employers when it comes to financial wellbeing, according to new data.

According to responses from 250 HR managers and 2,000 employees last month, compiled for wellbeing platform Nudge, 41% of employers agreed that increased financial stress among employees, obviously connected with the Covid-19 crisis, had negatively impacted their business this year – almost three times the 15% who reported experiencing this challenge before 2020.

The study found that seven in 10 employers thought that employees’ financial wellbeing had become more of a priority to them since the pandemic’s onset. But with 66% of employees felt that their organisation provided little or no support for their financial wellbeing with only 8% feeling they could talk openly to their employer about money problems.

However, the data suggested that employers were not indifferent to their workers’ concerns. More than half (53%) said they would like to do more but didnt know where to start, with most (88%) suggesting their organisation’s senior executives could better support them when it came to promoting the financial wellbeing of their employees. Half of the respondents agreed (44%) that they could achieve this, in part by providing HR with more autonomy to implement solutions.

Jeremy Beament, co-founder of Nudge, said: “There are powerful actions that employers can take right now to help employees feel more in control of their finances, from opening up the conversation about money within the workplace to helping them develop the right skills and knowledge.

“Not only will this improve their general wellbeing, it will enable them to dedicate more time and attention to their job – boosting overall company performance. But these initiatives must be driven from the top. Leadership teams have a responsibility to empower every level of their business and ensure their teams feel supported as we navigate this uncertain period.”

Financial worries have long been linked with performance, productivity and mental health issues with the report finding that employers that report poor financial wellbeing among their teams were eight times more likely to have seen a drop in performance, compared with those reporting good financial wellbeing.

Susanne Jacobs, founder of wellbeing and motivation company The Seven and a specialist in business psychology, added: “When we lack financial security, our brains switch us into threat mode. This diminishes our cognitive performance, increases our error rate and negatively impacts our wellbeing. All-consuming worry can play out in behaviours such as presenteeism, absenteeism, working longer hours and affected sleep and eating patterns.

“With the pandemic amplifying financial concerns, employers need to act now and support their staff to avoid a second epidemic of burnout. Practical tools that help employees improve their skills and knowledge and take better control of their money will pay dividends in health and performance.”

Nudge’s report used the example of Vodafone’s financial wellbeing strategy to promote the view that with 88% of employees suggesting they only need enough money to live comfortably, the solution to finance worries did not merely lie in increasing salaries. Educational resources, flexible working arrangements and employee assistance programmes all help ameliorate workers’ concerns around money.

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