Recent studies have shown mental health and financial stability are closely linked, with financial stress costing the UK economy £121bn and 18m working hours in lost productivity every year. Financial stress is known to have an enormous effect on mental wellbeing, and can be both the cause and effect of mental health problems. Take note: if you think these problems in your team’s personal lives have nothing to do with you, you’re mistaken.
Research by Bensinger, DuPont & Associates revealed 47 per cent of employees report that problems in their personal lives can affect their work performance. More than 16 per cent reported personal challenges caused absenteeism, and nearly half struggled to concentrate. So how can businesses focus on alleviating employees’ financial stress and support those whose mental wellbeing is being affected?
Create an open dialogue
Rob Briner, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Bath, states: “It’s important to remember that debt isn’t something the employee is doing, but instead a situation they have found themselves in.” He suggests employers should offer advice on the actions employees can take to help resolve situations that lead to financial stress. This could include benefits education, debt counselling, advice on debt consolidation and open discussion in workshops. Offering staff the opportunity to follow up on a more personal basis in a one-to-one meeting, or even watch a webcast in private, is another way to normalise the subject and keep discussion going.
Financial stress can be very personal and employers need to take a sensitive approach for employees to feel they can open up. A workshop environment might not have the desired effect or take-up rate because there is not that level of privacy. It can be more effective to run general financial education workshops and seminars and then point employees to sources of information. Businesses need to signpost the options available for those whose financial position is already impacting their mental health. This could be by an employee assistance programme (EAP), debt counselling or a workplace loan scheme.