We all know how money worries leave people feeling stressed, unable to sleep and distracted, though the figures still make for sobering reading. Research, compiled last year, found 62 per cent of employees are impacted by them, and one in three have felt anxious as a result. Not only is it damaging for the individual and those around them, it also costs organisations £15.2billion year in absenteeism, lower productivity and turnover costs.
Whether the pandemic has led to new financial concerns, or exacerbated existing ones, HR must play a leading role in supporting employees through this crisis and beyond. A well-conceived financial wellbeing policy is as integral to your HR strategy as any other initiatives you have to improve mental and physical health in the workplace. In fact, it is inextricably linked to them.
Many HR departments are now embarking on transformation projects, using digital technology to deliver organisation-wide change – and this includes a new focus on financial wellbeing. Navigating such a sensitive issue is tricky but the activities we suggest below are designed to empower employees to take action, whatever their current circumstances.
Workshops for financial planning
We all have our own priorities and goals, and whatever they may be, financial literacy is key. The problem is many people have no idea where to start when it comes to pensions, investments and savings. Some struggle to put away even a little each month, while others (particularly younger staff members) may not be ready to think about retirement plans yet.
A workshop, delivered by an impartial financial planning provider, can demystify the world of finance and give staff the knowledge and tools they need to build a secure future.
It might prompt them to seek out an accredited financial advisor, make use of the multitude of investment apps available today or simply set up a savings account.
Knowing they have a nest-egg for retirement, and a safety net for unexpected costs, could be a weight off their mind, allowing them to focus on relationships, being healthy and work. It may even push them towards their next promotion, and the higher salary this brings, in order to meet their savings goals.
Signposting to the right services
There are plenty of online resources available, including webinars and remote sessions delivered by financial planning providers. If your organisation has a pensions officer, or someone who handles this in finance, see whether they’d be prepared to be interviewed or write a blog for your employee portal about the workplace pension scheme.
Signposting staff to independent and non-commercial advice services is also helpful. These could be organisations like Citizens’ Advice and National Debtline, as well as the Money Advice Service, set up by the government. The mental health charity Mind also has information on money problems.
As with pensions and investments, encouraging someone to take control of their finances is liberating. This is why, as part of their HR transformation projects, we’re seeing organisations explore flexible pay technology, with employees drawing out their wages at a time to suit them.
If someone finds it easier to budget when they’re paid weekly instead of monthly, they may choose to withdraw what they have earned for the hours they’ve already worked. It could also steer them away from short-term loans to cover unexpected costs, like a car or boiler breakdown.
Flexible pay brings work into line with other areas of their lives, allowing them to manage their salary via a mobile app. It’s no different to the way they manage online banking, healthy eating, fitness or meditation.
Organisations that have introduced self-service on-demand pay technology say employees are measurably more productive and it can mean they are less likely to be off sick due to financial stress. Take our own Access EarlyPay app as an example, with employers who use it reporting a 22 per cent increase in employee productivity and 25 per cent reduction in staff turnover.
A helping hand
As the UK recovers from COVID-19, people may lean on employee assistance programmes and other benefits more than ever. And while it’s easy to assume you know what they want, how do you really know, and has it changed in light of the pandemic?
Staff surveys, particularly pulse surveys, are invaluable at the moment, giving you an insight into where people’s priorities like. You might find, for instance, that staff would like to see a cycle to work scheme introduced, so they can reduce the amount they spend on petrol, parking or public transport. Just as important is communicating existing benefits people may not have realised are available, such as childcare vouchers, counselling or subsidised gym memberships.
Good to talk
Remote working means line managers may not easily spot signs of distress among their team, but technology is essential for keeping the lines of communication open. It is certainly reassuring that 86 per cent of HR professionals we polled checked in regularly with staff during the lockdown, while 80 per cent delivered company-wide communications.
Along with video conferencing, a central cloud-based system encourages people to access information from HR from home, quickly and in confidence. A complete view of the organisation promotes dialogue between staff and managers too, ensuring that nobody falls off the radar.
Whether your teams are working from home for longer or taking their first tentative steps back into the workplace, a focus on financial wellbeing can help them thrive even in an uncertain economic climate.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Damian is an experienced and entrepreneurial Divisional Director with overall responsibility for the HCM division at Access who has a proven pedigree of developing high performing Sales Channels across various industries and market sectors.