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4 Financial Paths To Enhance Employee Mental Wellbeing

Physical and mental health are important aspects of employee wellness, but both are impact by financial wellbeing.

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Physical and mental health are important aspects of employee wellness, but both are impact by financial wellbeing.

Opinions

4 Financial Paths To Enhance Employee Mental Wellbeing

Physical and mental health are important aspects of employee wellness, but both are impact by financial wellbeing.

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Last year, 2017, was the year of employee wellness, with more company leaders embracing the concept in pursuit of higher levels of productivity, staff retention and increased profits. However, while physical and mental wellbeing are becoming a key business focus, financial wellness should also be a priority.

Recent CIPD research revealed one in four workers believe money worries have affected their ability to do their job. One in ten say they found it hard to concentrate or make decisions at work and 19 percent lost sleep worrying about money.

Considering such findings, it’s clear money worries may be costing your employees more than just interest.

It’s fundamental employers provide support for those whose financial insecurity is impacting their health and workplace performance. So how can businesses implement employee financial wellness effectively into their business and HR strategies?

Personalise your programme

A study from Thomsons has shown UK businesses offering education and a broader range of financial products have seen a 22 percent increase in employee engagement and over twice the effectiveness of their benefits programme than those that don’t.

Businesses can offer financially-focused employee benefits, like Income Protection, Critical Illness and Life Insurance, which provide financial security should a worker encounter the unexpected. These should be considered the foundations in financial benefits for employees.

Some organisations are also meeting the diverse needs of today’s workforce by providing a tailored suite of benefits on top of their core offerings, enabling staff to take advantage of those that make sense for them at different life stages.

For example, research from PwC's 2016 Employee Financial Wellness Survey showed 64 percent of Millennials were stressed about their finances. To help support these rising financial concerns, businesses could provide student loan repayment assistance as part of their benefits programme.

Another example of tailoring financial wellness initiatives could be supporting employees who want to become parents, beyond traditional parental leave. Facebook not only offers four months of paid leave to new parents but also gives them $4,000 in cash to help offset the costs of having a child.

A sensitive approach to financial education

In 2016, only 15 percent of employers had a financial education programme in place. Engaging employees in complex conversations about financial health can be difficult, so a careful approach is needed.

Financial education can be introduced by the employer in two ways. Firstly, by providing employees with financially-focused resources and support in the event of financial problems. This can be done through actively promoting workplace loans and/or debt counselling in common areas or direct messaging to staff.

Businesses can also introduce Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) for those who may already need more advanced financial support. EAPs offer direct, confidential contact with experts who can offer personalised advice to overcome issues causing emotional distress, including money troubles.

Secondly, businesses can introduce on-going specialist financial education in the workplace. According to a recent report from Secondsight, 73 percent of employees who received financial education at work felt more positive about their employer. However, money worries can be very personal and employers must take this into careful consideration when approaching the topic.

For example, a workshop environment might not have the anticipated effect or participation if there is not a high level of discretion.

An alternative solution is to provide more general financial education presentations, which can be promoted to all employees. You can then propose the option of private one-to-one follow-ups with a financial advisor for those who request further information.

Take advantage of Fintech

An increasing range of financial technology options mean employees have access to a variety of tools and apps to help measure their present finances and calculate how much they’re likely to need for certain situations.

Some of these tools take it a step further and offer education on which precise actions can close savings gaps and have positive effects on long-term financial security. For example,  MoneyHub consolidates your savings, credit cards, loans, investment accounts, pulling in live transaction data from each.

You can set money goals and track spending and progress towards meeting these.

Business experts in the U.S. are beginning to promote employer-sponsored savings accounts which let employees automatically divert a portion of their pay slips into easily accessible savings accounts to help build emergency funds.

Also available for employers and their workforce is a tool called Smarterly, which makes it simple for employees to start investing through the workplace.

Provide a sense of security

Money Advice Service reported 40 percent (16.8 million) of working-age people across the UK lack a savings buffer, with less than £100 in savings available to them at any time.

Companies can look to include workplace savings schemes into their employee benefits programmes.

There are a number to choose from, but the three main types are: Workplace ISAs, Save As You Earn (SAYE) and Share Incentive Plans (SIPs). Each work slightly differently, but they have the same purpose – to encourage saving and create employee tax breaks, which in turn provides even greater financial relief.

Combining long-term benefits offerings like Workplace Savings Schemes, Life and Health insurance, with ‘real-time’ options such as subsidised memberships, annual leave buy-back schemes and childcare vouchers can offer greater stability and longer-term financial protection for employees.

Companies can offer more than the minimum pension contributions through auto-enrolment and encourage employees to make further contributions by matching payments. Individuals with healthy pension savings are far less likely to suffer anxiety about their future financial position.

As financial wellness continues to become a key business incentive, the results of a strong company support strategy will be equally beneficial for both employers and employees. Financial education can give staff at all salary levels the tools and resources they need to better manage their finances.

This, in turn, means reduced financial worries, equalling better employee engagement and productivity levels, as well as reducing the chances of stress-related absences.

Liz Walker is HR Director at Unum UK.

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4 Financial Paths To Enhance Employee Mental Wellbeing

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