Management

Stressed Employees? Why Financial Wellness Programs Can Help

Stressed Employees? Why Financial Wellness Programs Can Help
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Guest Writer
Director - Global Services and Solutions, Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa (CEEMEA) at Willis Towers Watson (WTW)
8 min read
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There's no doubt about it: money, or lack thereof, can cause huge anxiety and be a constant source of stress and sleepless nights. Inevitably, such monetary worries can get carried into the workplace with negative repercussions for both employee and employer.

A report carried out by the American Psychological Association (APA), revealed that 72% of adults felt stressed about money at least some of the time, with 22% saying they had experienced extreme financial stress. As an employer, it’s important to be aware that being under severe financial strain results in low morale, a distracted workforce, reduced productivity and an increase in absenteeism− all of which are bad news for your business.

Bearing the above in mind, it’s crucial to provide benefits to not only ensure your employees are healthy in mind and body, but also that they are financially healthy too. 

When employees’ financial problems are your problems
More and more employees today are struggling with their finances− whether they face increasing personal debt, demanding financial commitments or a limited ability to save for the future. The Willis Towers Watson 2017 Benefit Trends Survey Middle East reveals that 61% of employers in the region identified stress as the top issue in the workplace. Almost half of all employees worry that they will not be able to afford to retire, and this anxiety can have an impact on their personal wellbeing.

Furthermore, what is becoming increasingly clear is that an employee's financial problems can also be a problem for their employer. Research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reveals lost productivity and increased absence and employee turnover associated with financial stress costs UK employers in the region of GBP 120.7bn every year.

Employees who worry about their finances are not only likely to affect the company's efficiency through being absent from work more often, or unable to concentrate even when they are present; they are also more likely to suffer from health issues. This in turn leads to more days off sick and greater healthcare costs. 

High financial stress levels can lead to an increase in: 
Absenteeism: Financially-stressed employees use more sick leave and are absent from work more often. 
Presenteeism: Although employees may be physically at work, when they are suffering from financial stress they are distracted and cannot focus properly on the job in hand. They may also have to spend time sorting out their financial problems whilst at work. 
Health concerns: Unhealthy workers who are working below par cannot function so efficiently at work. They are more likely to incur higher health costs, which impacts both the employee and the employer. Worry over financial matters can lead to irritability, anger, mood swings, fatigue and sleeplessness, all of which have an effect on their performance in the workplace. 
Work conflicts: Lateness, incomplete work tasks and accidents can all occur when workers’ personal financial problems interfere with their job performance. 

How can I nurture my employees’ financial wellness?
Taking a holistic approach to your employees' wellbeing is crucial. Helping to alleviate their monetary worries by investing in workplace financial wellbeing programmes that can give your staff a helping hand in becoming more financially astute makes good commercial sense. Providing information, guidance and training tools to help them work towards monetary stability and security will help boost overall peace of mind about their financial future and reduce levels of stress. 

Creating a culture that supports financial independence through offering programmes and resources, such as courses and workshops, that employees can use to develop positive new monetary habits will have long-lasting effects. Wellbeing, be it physical or financial, is a key driver of engagement and therefore productivity, so anything that helps reduce stress and improve your employees' welfare is going to benefit your business in the long term. As such, carefully thought-out financial wellness programmes are fast becoming a growth area and an integral part of a successful company's overall benefits strategy. 

What specific financial benefits can I offer?
More than ever, employees are looking to their employers to help them achieve financial protection through a range of workplace benefits. So what are the key financial benefits you should consider as top priorities for your workforce?

Life insurance: Providing your employees’ dependants with a tax-free lump sum in the event of their death will help give peace of mind and keep them safe in the knowledge that their loved ones will be financially secure should anything happen to them. This is a valuable benefit that can help attract and retain the best talent– something that is clear from the above-mentioned 2017 Willis Towers Watson Benefits Trends Survey Middle East, in which 76% of respondents said that life insurance/accidental death insurance was very important. Seek specialist advice on the different policies available and which are the most appropriate and cost effective for your company's specific needs. 

Critical care insurance: This type of insurance pays out a lump sum in the event of someone being diagnozed with a life-threatening illness, such as cancer or heart disease. The money can be used, among other things, to pay off a mortgage, enable an individual to stop working, or buy private medical care. Generally, this is added as a voluntary supplement, giving employees the choice to add this to their insurance plan. Offering this type of benefit helps to create employee confidence in the financial future. Critical illness insurance can be complicated however, so it’s always best to consult specialist providers when considering offering this benefit.

End of service benefits: These are payable to employees at the end of their service– whether they choose to resign from their job or their services are terminated. Employers across the UAE are increasingly enhancing their end of service gratuity to retain key talent. 

Disability benefits: According to the Council for Disability Awareness, every seven seconds someone in the US suffers an illness, injury or accident that will keep them out of work for more than one month. Providing disability benefits can give employees peace of mind, knowing they have financial support in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Such benefits are sought after and can often make the difference when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best team.

Retirement benefits: By giving your workforce an opportunity to build retirement savings you stay competitive with other prospective employers, giving them reason to stay loyal and committed to your business for the long haul.

Educational programs: According to the report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), financial advice benefit provision, whether delivered online, one-on-one, or in a group or classroom format, is on the increase, with nearly one half (49%) of employers providing some kind of financial advice. A good program should be established as a core employee benefit, customised to employee needs and taught by independent and certified financial experts. 

What role does technology have to play?
Technology has a large role to play in helping organizations improve their employees' financial security. Companies can use technological programs to combine personal and employer data to compile a complete financial picture. Just as they might receive a health assessment, employees can also undergo a financial assessment. Using specialist technology, an individual's specific monetary concerns can be teamed up with the appropriate programs and benefits that are made available by their employer. Computer-based algorithms can also be used to help compile annual reviews to analyze an individual employee's ongoing financial circumstances and their specific needs going forward. 

A better future– healthy employees mean healthy margins. Instead of simply offering help with retirement planning or advice on student loans, future programmes offered by specialist providers will increasingly cover more diverse areas such as fraud protection, debt management and budgeting. In addition, where an employee reaches a specific stage in life, such as getting married, buying a house or the birth of their first child, employee financial wellbeing initiatives can help reassess an individual's changed monetary circumstances and priorities. They can then recommend taking appropriate action, as and when necessary. Everyone has real concerns about money at some point in their lives, but being able to access independent financial advice and support at work provides an opportunity to help alleviate such anxieties and their consequences for both employee and employer alike. 

Organizations that offer financial wellness education and benefits for their workforce will not only be giving themselves a huge advantage in the war to attract and retain the best talent, but will also be contributing to an enhanced bottom line. It's a win-win.
Related: Investing In Your Workforce: Strategies To Help Your Team Achieve Their Development Goals

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