Understanding the link between financial wealth and mental health
The 10th October 2016 marks World Mental Health Day and never has there been so much conversation around the topic.
There are countless articles and studies published about the impact of modern life on people’s mental wellbeing every day. With emails now accessible via smart phones and laptops, organisations can contact their employees 24/7. With this in mind, it is difficult for anyone to actually take a proper holiday where they will be undisturbed by work.
But if employers are allowed to contact their staff at any time (day or night) about an urgent task, then staff should be able to deal with an important personal issue during work hours, right? For example, there should be some leniency when they are buying a house or dealing with any fraudulent activity on their credit card. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.
Financial stress, can have a severe impact on a person’s wellbeing. The worry of not being able to pay off a bill, or make a deposit at the right time, can be incredibly distracting and affect a person’s productivity at work. Although it would seem like common sense to let employees manage their personal finances during work hours, according to our research, 40% of HR professionals do not think this is acceptable. They believe that this should be managed outside of office hours or during lunchtime only.
Asking the right questions
The reasons why so many HR professionals do not think it is acceptable for employees to manage their personal finances at work could be down to the current attitudes around financial wellbeing in British workplaces.
Our research has shown for example that 61% of HRs are not aware if their employees are taking time off due to financial worries. But perhaps this is because they are not being asked about their reasons for being off sick in detail in the first place. For example, would an employee even be provided with ‘financial matters’ as a tick box option to select on their sick leave form as their reason for being off work?
61% of HRs are not aware if their employees are taking time off due to financial worries
Further still, are employers even having a conversation around financial wellbeing, or is the subject still considered too taboo? In fact, 22% of HRs we questioned said that their employees would not take any time off due to illness caused by financial worry. But how they can know this for sure? People are very secretive about the amount they have in the bank, and are unlikely to admit to any trouble. This is why businesses need to encourage more transparency, openness and support in the workplace.
Offering the right benefits
The first step is recognising how stressful money worries can be and accepting that employees may need help with their money management. In the past, beyond providing a salary or pension, this has not been something the employer has been actively involved in. But as people look for a better work/life balance, employee benefits have become increasingly desirable and important.
So the second step is putting the right benefits offering on the table. Employees will appreciate an organisation that can recognise the different stages of life, or life cycles, and tailor its benefits package accordingly. For example, a new parent is more likely to be more interested in childcare benefits than a discounted gym membership. This does vary from person to person though, and organisations should avoid boxing people into categories.
A new parent is more likely to be more interested in childcare benefits than a discounted gym membership
Now, HR professionals are starting to recognise that part of providing a more extensive range of benefits includes money management. When asked which of their current benefits offerings they would most like to enhance, most (37%) cited money matters and money management. It is encouraging to see that organisations clearly recognise that they need to offer a benefit to support their employee’s financial wellbeing.
The third step is putting better tools in place to understand why people are taking time off work, and if it is down to illness caused by a financial worry, encouraging an open and honest discussion. The best way to achieve this goal is still uncertain and will depend on the individual priorities or beliefs of an organisation.
Making sure that mental illness is accepted by the organisation, without judgement or disbelief, is vital. If an employee feels they have the support of their employer and that they offer a benefit to help them, they will be more likely to open up about their struggle. For example, if an employee becomes aware of a salary sacrifice loan scheme, they may see a way to manage debt that they couldn’t before.
Consolidating existing debts into one place, making regular payments through payroll and taking advantage of a lower APR will help people take control of their money matters and move them towards becoming debt free. But first must come the discussion about their financial wellbeing at work and the support their company offers. This can then lead to a deeper conversation and more effective way of managing their finances, which is crucial if a company wishes to achieve their goal of reliving stress and improving employee productivity.
Karim Peer, Chief Executive Editor of Balmoral Financial
Karim has over 20 years’ experience in developing and building businesses. Karim has operated as CEO or managing director of a number of software businesses and has led them to successful exits realising significant gains for existing investors and shareholders. Prior to leading...