Financial Wellbeing: How to set up an initiative to spot the signs of financial stress

01 May 2018

20 per cent of us are losing sleep as a result of financial worries . Financial concerns bring their own unique indicators: frequent arguments, a withdrawal from social life, discussions about money becoming ‘off limits’ and a preoccupation with how money is spent.

But why should employers care?

Easing financial worries can improve the financial wellbeing of your employees. According to Neyber, 54% of employees have suffered the mental and physical effects of financial worries and 8% of recorded absence in the UK can be directly attributable to financial worries. But it’s the more insidious ways in which it impacts upon us that are equally, if not more, damaging to our organisations. It can create a body of stagnant workers, beset by ‘presenteeism’ – physically at work, but with their minds elsewhere they are unengaged and unproductive. These conditions will ultimately affect your bottom line. Couple this with a rise in social responsibility means that as an employer you now have a duty of care to look after not only the physical wellbeing of your people but also their emotional wellbeing – and we see persuasive reasons why employers should care. Attitudes are changing – 82% of organisations now agree that financial health is important to their organisations2.

Strategy for diagnosis

Asking people how they feel about money is a great place to start. Spotting the warning signs is then about knowing what to look for and where to look. These pointers can help you shape a strategy for diagnosis.

  • Find out more about your people. Start with surveys and diagnostics to help you to understand your people’s needs. Your survey should be crafted by people that know what questions to ask and how to ask them. This is a sensitive topic, so getting the messaging and questioning right will have a big impact upon the quality of information that can be driven as a result and the lessons that can be learned from it.
  • Do your research. This can prevent assumptions and decisions based on what we think we know. For example, a third of 25 to 35 year olds say that money worries affect their ability to do their job . Not entirely unexpected. But, money worries are not just restricted to certain age groups; 20% to 25% of senior and middle managers suffer just as much . Bigger salaries can mean bigger headaches. 
  • Segment your workforce. Take time to understand which groups are affected in which ways.
  • Be sensitive. Employees are far more likely to go online to seek answers (over 40%1) than they are to go to their employer. If you’re asking people about financial matters, think about their reaction first.
  • Get a representative sample. Create incentives to encourage people to share their views. It’s important to show a broad scope of views; these can be anonymous if it helps promote honest sharing.
  • Analyse the results. Don’t underestimate the value of expert guidance here too.
  • Look at the cause not the symptoms. As with the research, listen to the results of your survey. Findings can be surprising and enlightening. For example, if people prefer to go online to find answers to financial problems, think about why they do this. Is it for anonymity? For speed of a response? For control? Understanding motivations will help shape better remedies.

Starting the treatment

Once you have a clear picture of where support is needed, you can start to build a targeted strategy to address it. Financial education, advice, online guidance and debt management can all form part of the answer. But continued monitoring of how people are coping with financial pressures is part of the cultural shift that this kind of programme can trigger. Showing that you care, asking people how they feel and putting measures in place that reinforce this will encourage people to share their concerns at the very moments when they most need help and hopefully before they get to this point. The very act of introducing a financial wellbeing programme can make it easier to spot the warning signs. But spot them you must, if you are to remain progressive and productive.