by William Arruda, Contributor,
Eighty percent of employers report that financial stress is lowering their employees’ performance level, and it’s costing them some half a trillion dollars annually. Everything from home loans to student debt is stressing out America’s workforce; many workers don’t feel prepared to fully address these problems. Stress and anxiety cast a cloud over your self-confidence, making it hard for your unique talents to shine through.
What can managers do? Your first responsibility is, of course, to ensure that your company’s compensation packages are better than industry benchmarks, keeping pace with inflation and providing ample paths for upward mobility. But for workers at all pay levels, free financial coaching can be an HR benefit that delivers tangible added value. In fact, financial wellness has become the single most-asked-for benefit in 2019.
Not addressing employees’ financial concerns drains productivity and cash straight from your business because it reduces office morale and causes a significant distraction. It’s important that your company set its employees up for success in every aspect of their lives, and their finances are fundamental to this.
That being said, finances are a personal matter for most, so asking unwanted questions or giving unsolicited advice can backfire. The latest example is Chase Bank’s #MoneyMotivation tweet that recommended brewing your own coffee, eating at home, and not taking taxis as the answer to, “Why is my balance so low?” The backlash cast Chase as insensitive and greedy. If your organization is ready to address your employees’ fiscal health in a compassionate, empowering way—echoing your company’s authentic corporate brand—you can take a more effective path:
1. Create the right program for your company.
There’s no magic formula for ensuring your employees’ financial health. Every individual’s situation is going to be different, requiring different solutions and levels of attention. Anonymous polls are good ways to hear each employee’s unique concerns and create a strategy from there. Corporate financial standbys like 401(k)s continue to be relevant in the long term, but plenty of workers need their specific concerns about financial security addressed much more quickly.
Trying to cater to each employee’s concerns, however, can consume time and resources you don’t have to spare. That’s why hiring a financial wellness firm to handle your office’s needs can give employees the custom attention they want—from an outside source to ensure their privacy—without becoming a drain on your internal resources.
Financial wellness firms like LearnLux specialize in addressing a wide range of employee financial concerns. These companies offer custom financial wellness plans for all clients, meaning individuals get tailored help. As employees input information into the platform, they get tools and lessons that address their specific needs, from making the most of an FSA to saving for retirement. Finding an independent provider focused on employees’ wellness—without recommending a specific provider’s products—is important in supporting your team members’ goals.
2. Bring in an expert.
While financial wellness firms are great for sustaining the long-term fiscal success of your employees, specific issues sometimes need to be addressed immediately to minimize financial stress. Perhaps you’ve noticed you have several employees worried about student debt or that a large proportion of the office is concerned about managing their mortgages. Thirty-one percent of employees want specific advice regarding their money concerns. That means hiring a financial expert specializing in your teammates’ specific concerns—even just for a few hours. Just one session can pay large dividends in reduced employee stress down the line. And, just as successful brands are built on being responsive to the needs of their customers, the same principle applies to how well you respond to your employees’ needs.
There are numerous outside consultants prepared to advise your employees on any issue they struggle with, and an officewide opportunity for addressing some specific issues can diffuse any embarrassment or shame employees may feel about having certain financial needs or issues. Removing the stigma around financial struggles can be a big boost for your office, allowing people to feel more comfortable being their true selves and more trusting of their work environment.
3. Focus on overall wellness.
Financial stress is rarely an isolated phenomenon. The problems incurred by having unhealthy finances can stretch into every aspect of life, affecting physical as well as mental health. As an employer, it’s your job not only to mitigate the financial stress itself, but to also promote an overall mission of employee wellness.
Take healthcare, for example: Forty-four percent of adults don’t have enough cash able to cover a $400 emergency expense, a dollar amount that pales in comparison with the cost of an ER visit. Even employees who might feel financially stable are always at risk if their healthcare is inadequate. This illustrates the fact that wellness encompasses many types of “health.”
Office culture is a large determining factor in wellness, which is tied to personal productivity and happiness. Creating a safe and comfortable space for employees to talk about their concerns and find resources is not a luxury; it’s essential, and it generates a valuable payoff. Anything that increases camaraderie and trust between employees will likely reduce stress across the entire office. Integrating fiscal fitness plans into a corporate culture of wellness is essential.
Financial stress is taking its toll on the workforce—and on the personal brands of your people. By collaborating with your employees and delivering solutions that work for them, you can help your company avoid taking further losses caused by stress—and boost the corporate brand on every level.