How can you reduce employee financial stress? By introducing a financial wellness program

April 20, 2018

Finances are one of the top causes of stress among Canadians. And unfortunately, this stress follows many people into the workplace. When employees are stressed, it can cause anxiety and depression. These consequences can leave employees unable to focus on their work, unlikely to have the energy to take care of themselves (such as going to the gym), lower resiliency and make them more susceptible to illness. This one stress — money — can lead to reduced productivity at work, a decrease in overall workplace performance and higher employee health benefit claims.

This is not an issue that affects just a small number of Canadians. A national survey found that 42 per cent of Canadians rank money as their greatest stress. And, some 67 per cent of employees have admitted to dealing with financial issues at work. Those experiencing extreme financial stress estimate that they spend one hour of their workday, every day, on these personal matters. Even moderately financially burdened employees admit to spending about one and a half hours every week of company time dealing with their financial issues.

That all translates into a lot of lost hours of productivity. And that’s only if you count the hours lost to actually dealing with the issues and not the hours lost due to the mental toll caused by financial stress, which includes employee absences.

PROMOTING FINANCIAL WELLNESS PROGRAMS IN THE WORKPLACE

What can employers do then to help employees reduce financial stress while also reducing the unproductive hours caused by it? The answer is to implement a financial wellness program and do financial wellness planning.

Over the last decade, the focus of Canadian corporate wellness programs has primarily centred on the traditional pillars of wellbeing — nutrition and physical activity. Thankfully stress management and mental health has now become an important part of that picture as well. And, to minimize stress, we need to tackle the major causes. This has lead to the integration of financial wellbeing into corporate wellness programs.

Promoting financial wellbeing means so much more than offering basic advice about investing, retirement contributions and creating long-term savings goals. It is also about providing financial planning for employees and support on navigating day-to-day money issues, such as debt management, budgeting, cost of borrowing and savings strategies for homebuyers. It’s about educating employees on how to look forward to what they want to achieve rather than always looking backwards to make ends meet.

At Thorpe Benefits, we have built employee wellness programs around many areas, including financial wellbeing. This program is not a one-day education seminar or a single app for employees to learn and use on their own. (In fact, none of our wellness programs are.) It is a multi-faceted approach so that employees can learn the different layers of financial wellbeing and implement the concepts in different ways so that they’re applying these new habits in their work and home life.

CHANGE HABITS

What do we mean by this? A program isn’t a program if employees are operating in a silo or have to fit it in on their own time. Most people lead busy lives, with days stretched thin between work and family commitments, leaving no time to independently bring about change. An effective employer financial wellness program promotes and encourages change by having everyone concentrate on the same program at the same time. Just like supporting employees in physical or mental health, supporting financial wellbeing must be done through awareness, education, support and actionable activities that promote change. Only then will habits change.

Here are just three of the components of our financial wellness program that encourage employees to take steps towards the best financial wellness programs for them.

Goal setting. When all employees set personalized goals related to a wellness theme, they’re more likely to make the effort to achieve it. There isn’t a cookie cutter approach to this; goals need to be customized and unique for each person or employees will feel disconnected from the theme or demoralized at not being able to attain a common goal. One employee may want to start with small steps by modifying small purchasing habits one at time, whereas another may want to make large, sudden changes.

Team Building. Money conversations are often steeped in stigma — few people like to talk about money or admit to financial difficulties. Tackling the subject as a team and doing financial wellness activities reduces this stigma and capitalizes on peer motivation, peer inspiration, social enticement and the sharing of ideas, information and goals. And everyone has a little fun while they’re at it.

Experiential learning. Few people follow through with behaviour change after learning about it in a seminar. A variety of resources and a practical, multi-faceted approach on the subject ensure that you reach the most employees.

A CLEAR WIN-WIN

Financial literacy, workplace financial wellness and other wellness programs, not only benefits current employees but aids in the attraction of new employees. Today’s generation of employees have come to expect their company to take care of their wellbeing and wellness programs at work help do just that. After all, we all spend at least one-third of our days at work so wellness programs like financial literacy are a clear win-win in terms of employee health, company morale and business productivity.

Our employee wellness programs include financial wellbeing. Ask us how your company can create long-term strategies to encourage and sustain employee financial wellness.

Contributed by
Partner at Thorpe

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