It has been a challenging year for us all
We have seen many experience difficult times, at home and in the workplace. Fortunately, we hope that what follows chaos is exciting new opportunities. However, this may not be the case for all. Many of the uncertainties that were created in 2020 will not be quickly forgotten.
Organisations have focused on wellbeing and mental health and these issues will remain a strategic boardroom priority. However, it’s important to recognise that a precursor to many mental health issues is financial stress. For many employees, financial stress in their number one stressor, and this negatively impacts your team and your business.
Since the onset of COVID-19, Relationships Australia reports that the crisis has caused great societal upheaval and an unprecedented change to the way we live, work and socialise.
Key findings of the Relationships Australia report:
- 63% of respondents have experienced changes to their mental health in response to changes in their working conditions.
- Respondents who felt that their workplace was part of their social life were more likely to experience a change in mental health as a result of recent changes to work.
- Those who had worse mental health prior to the pandemic have experienced less changes to their mental health during the crisis.
- Industries have seen varying severity in workplace shifts. However, between 74% and 98% of respondents across every industry have reported ‘significant changes’ to their work since COVID-19 began.
- Industries who had the highest rate of reported changes to their work life reported the lowest rate of changes to mental health.
Once upon a time employees’ personal finances used to be hands-off for employers
So too did mental health issues. Thankfully we are seeing a shift in business attitude amid continued recognition of the key role employers can take in helping employees to tackle these issues. Worldwide, increasing numbers of employers are turning to financial wellbeing programs to help employees to reduce the impact of financial stresses on their personal and professional lives.
Money is still a taboo subject in many circles. Employees are usually reluctant to openly discuss these issues. But it does not mean the issues are not there. Financial stress can manifest itself as anything from depression and anxiety to migraines, ulcers and heart issues, leading individuals to be less engaged and productive and resulting in higher rates of absenteeism and presenteeism at work. These impacts are felt at an individual, team and organisational level.
COVID has shined the light on the importance of supporting employee wellbeing. Unfortunately, COVID is also creating a more uneven playing field financially speaking, and may making identifying the problem more complex.
This means it’s an ideal opportunity for you to act, now!
Employers are in a trusted position to help by providing financial wellbeing programs and providing incentives to participate. You can also assist by developing better relationships with your team, fostering good relationships between managers and employees, where they can feel more open about communicating these issues.
In the US the National Business Group on Health survey found nearly a third of employees (32%) cited financial health as the one dimension of wellbeing they would like their employers to address more than they do today. When it comes to mental health, 27% of employees are looking for more support. According to the survey, employer investment in multiple dimensions of wellbeing also correlates with higher levels of employee wellbeing.
“The message from employees to their employers on wellbeing is loud and clear,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “Employees are looking to their employer to provide support on all areas of wellbeing, designed to help employees meet their financial, mental, community and social-health goals.”
I couldn’t have stated it better than Robert Stewart, HR administrator and lecturer of ‘Money, Stress and the Marriage relationship’ at Brigham Young University of Idaho, when he said, “Provide some good assistance to your employees. If nothing else, do it because you have a big heart and you care about your employees. But it really makes a big impact on the bottom line as well.”