With student loan repayments resuming and rents soaring to near record highs it’s little wonder that 9 out of 10 employees report being worried about money. That worry often translates to workplace headaches. Studies suggest as many as 60% of workers link economic worries to reduced performance at the office—at a cost to corporations of as much as $300 billion.¹
Should employers be listening to the noise? Is this a real opportunity to enhance employee well-being and reduce turnover? Is it time to broaden our understanding of employee health?
We’ll explore the questions surrounding how debt affects workplace productivity and how employers can help employees manage their finances to directly affect productivity and company revenue.
WHY IS FINANCIAL WELLNESS IMPORTANT?
Employees who worry about credit cards, day-to-day expenses and the state of their financial future are undoubtedly distracted. Debt collector calls alone are disruptive, even if it’s just a momentary pause, the ripple effect caused by the surge in stress can derail productivity. Yet, that’s just one piece of the pie. Stress around personal finances can take a toll on your company’s bottom line in more quantifiable ways.
Increased Illness and absenteeism
Financial stress is, unfortunately, chronic stress. Too much stress, for too long creates adverse effects.
Virtually every body system is affected including heartbeat, breath, muscles, and brain function. Researchers from the National Library of Medicine have cited a significant link between financial stress, mental health distress and sickness absence spells per year.²
An employee who is stressed about their financial situation can become disengaged, and disengagement often spreads like wildfire. Unhappy and unproductive, disengaged employees are unlikely to make positive contributions or recognize the value in the contributions of others. By contrast engaged employees are more productive, have lower turnover rates, lower absenteeism, and drive higher profits.
Financial wellness elusive for women
Women face elevated risks of financial stress due to wage inequality, family obligations, and their longer life expectancy. This heightened vulnerability is supported by research. Pew Research reveals that women are overrepresented in lower-paying occupations. Furthermore, this study highlights that women often take career breaks for caregiving responsibilities.³
Adding to these challenges, statistics from the National Center for Health emphasize that, on average, women have longer lifespans. Consequently, there is a heightened need for women to prioritize and invest more in retirement planning to ensure their financial security in the future.⁴
ADVANTAGES TO PROMOTING FINANCIAL WELLNESS
More than 80% of employers believe employee financial wellness programs and tools help to create more productive, loyal, satisfied, and engaged employees. Just as employers offer healthcare programs in their benefits packages to promote physical wellness, employees now expect financial health as part of their benefits package. Many employees want employers to make retirement a top priority.
Financial wellness programs can be a powerful component of your retention strategy and employee value proposition. As part of an employee retention strategy, consider the financial needs of your workforce. Measure successes and missed opportunities regarding elements such as utilization rates, program costs, contributions to retirement plans, automatic savings programs and health saving accounts. Consider employee feedback. Mine for valuable insights regarding financial stress levels, debt levels, retirement readiness and financial literacy.
Analysis can help employers find opportunities to create meaningful change. This may include engaging more employees in existing programs or implementing different financial wellness programs that may resonate more with dominant populations. For example, an aging workforce is likely to value different types of education compared to younger demographics for whom the expenses of family and student loans maybe more top of mind.
WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO TO IMPROVE FINANCIAL WELLNESS
Now that we know how financial stress surrounding debts can affect employee wellbeing and work performance, what can employers do about it? As an employer, i.e., the source of income for your employees, you have an opportunity to help build, foster, and promote employee financial wellness. Employees have a certain amount of intrinsic trust in their employers, making them a captive audience for in-house or online events like seminars or instructional videos, as well as through regular financial wellness communications.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to prevent workers from suffering a financial emergency is by offering the kind of benefits that help prevent a crisis from happening in the first place. For example, some increasingly sought after benefits include:
- Retirement – 401(k), HSA, PLEAS, and retirement savings are top of mind for more than 78% of working Americans, and they are frequently heralded as one of the most important employer-sponsored financial wellness benefits.
- Education Benefits – These may include 529 plans, tuition reimbursement, and employer-provided student loan repayment.
- Financial Planning – Financial planning benefits can include sessions with a financial advisor focused on investments, wealth management, estate planning, etc.
- Financial Coaching – Similar to financial planning, but centered on financial habits, such as savings, debt, and credit management.
UNDERSTANDING FINANCIAL WELLNESS AS PART OF EMPLOYEE HEALTH
Expanding our understanding of employee health doesn’t require us to reinvent the wheel. Just our understanding of the spokes. In our dynamic era, marked by increasing global interconnectedness, it’s no longer sufficient to view employee health solely through a physical lens. To authentically foster workplace health, we must embrace a holistic perspective that encompasses the complete individual – their physical, mental, and financial wellness.
If you are looking for greater guidance, support, and resources your retirement plan advisor is often the best place to start. At MJ, utilize the power of data and a fully integrated approach to customizing solutions perfectly tailored to your unique needs and objectives.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you get started on creating the right financial wellness strategy for your employees.CONTACT US TODAY
- “2020 devastated US mental health, healing must be a priority.” nami.org. Feb 2021. https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/In-The-News/2021/2020-devastated-US-mental-health-%E2%80%94-healing-must-be-a-priority?feed=In-the-news#:~:text=The%20National%20Alliance%20on%20Mental,in%20medical%20and%20disability%20expenses.
- Martin Sanchez-Gomez, et. Al. “Economic Stress at Work: Its Impact over Absenteeism and Innovation.” National Library of Medicine. NIH.org. Retrieved 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8156033/
- Jens Manuel Krogstad. “More women than men earn the federal minimum wage.” Pew Research. Pewresearch.org. Retrieved: https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2014/05/05/more-women-than-men-earn-the-federal-minimum-wage/
- “Provisional life expectancy estimates for January through June, 2020.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC.org. Retrieved 2023. https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/100392