When organizations talk about health, they often see it from the perspective of disease conditions and physical health. While this is true, it takes away from the overall meaning of health. The World Health Organization defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition puts context to the true meaning of health in regard to balance in all key areas of one’s life.
One of the areas of life that largely determines one’s social health and, in turn, overall well-being is finance. For most adults, finance is one of the major sources of worry and distress, and with rising inflation and the cost of living, the data remains gloomy on this.
A 2022 PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey noted that 56 percent of workers worry about their financial health amid the rising cost of living, causing them considerable stress. The survey also pointed out that financially-stressed employees are twice as likely to look elsewhere in search of jobs that can improve their financial well-being.
Admittedly, financial stress has a huge impact on overall health and productivity, affecting mental health, sleep, relationships, and even work performance negatively. Ultimately, employee money problems have the potential to affect overall engagement and employee retention in any organization. Admittedly, it is not one component of health that organizations should ignore when conceptualizing health solutions for their employees.
In a recent episode of the Edelheit Experience, Robert Kelley, HR Benefits Consultant at the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources, talks about the importance of financial wellness at work and how organizations can effectively integrate financial health solutions into their wellness project.
Given the huge role finance plays in people’s lives and how it influences health decisions, it remains a vital issue when talking about workplace wellness. But financial education and health have been an under-discussed part of wellness in many organizations, for many reasons including employers believing that their workers are getting paid and should have money issues all figured out.
According to the PwC survey, among employees who say that financial worries have had a severe or major negative impact on their productivity at work, 67% are struggling to meet basic household expenses each month and about 71% say they have personal debt. Further, the report also shows that nearly 25% say they have saved less than $1000 for retirement, and more than half plan to postpone their retirement.
A recent article in the Corporate Wellness Magazine reports that more employees are abandoning or avoiding healthcare visits as they have already accrued large debt and are in immense financial problems. This no doubt sets the stage for poor health outcomes and increased stress levels.
How do employees begin to correct these financial issues and learn about financial management and planning seeing this huge burden to employees? Robert noted that much of this problem emanates from the lack of some form of financial education in the workplace and in schools for everyday people to understand the complexities of finances.
“For whatever reason, the school may have become technical and they do not get into any form of financial literacy, and even if it starting to get integrated, it is still not there yet,” Robert said.
The journey to financial wellness begins with financial literacy. Help employees figure out their finances, their financial benefits, and how they can properly manage these to improve their financial health. Employers may offer good benefits but their employees may not understand how it works. Providing education therefore also involves helping your workers understand what benefits are available to them and how to access them.
Some employees may also benefit from finance coaches and experts to walk them through wealth creation, financial planning, and other money management skills. HR and managers can also signpost employees to resources and tools to help them with these skills.
Financial literacy is one half of it, employers need to also explore other financial wellness solutions, including providing benefits, rewards, and compensations that are relevant to workers and meet their different financial wellness needs. However, this takes engaging with employees to have a sense of what they want from their financial benefits.
“Financial wellness is different things to different people; everyone is on a different path of the financial journeys and has different financial needs at different stages of their lives ” Robert notes explaining how financial wellness solutions have to vary for every employee to yield lasting solutions.
For instance, after listening to seminars and webinars on financial literacy, there’s still a part of the workforce that will be more productive if they have student loan assistance. Young graduates often come out of college with as much as $28,400 in federal and private debt, and this is a huge source of financial stress for the first few years of their work lives. Older employees may also worry more about their healthcare payments and 401K plans.
Another strategy for improving financial wellness at work is to make work flexible. Paid time off and teleworking are important wellness solutions that help employees control their lives and finances at the same time. Companies that offer more paid time offs have employees that are more satisfied and less stressed. Companies that don’t offer a lot of these have employees burning out both ends of the candle to make the same amount of money to meet their needs.
“Not everyone wants to telework, not every job can telework, but for those that can, telework is not just for the convenience of work-life balance, but it also helps employees save the cost of commutes, eat-outs, and other work-related expenses.”
Financial wellness is integral to employee health and productivity, playing a pivotal role in employee health decisions. Therefore, as employers are beginning to recognize the need for a holistic approach to wellness, more financial wellness initiatives need to be integrated into these programs to create a healthier workforce, in the real sense of it.
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Employees have now taken decisions into their hands and are driving this shift in the corporate space. Now is the time to reimagine your employee health and wellness paradigms and leverage the GHA For Business Accreditation to build a healthier and more resilient organization.
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort