Kate Langston, Intern, Money and Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018: Promoting financial wellbeing at work

Work can be a stressful place at the best of times. Whether you’re being bombarded by emails, racing to meet tight deadlines, or juggling the demands of numerous colleagues, the pressures can sometimes seem endless. If you then add anxiety about personal finances to this mix, it can be all too easy to find yourself struggling to cope.

These factors can understandably have an impact on someone’s ability to work, making it harder to concentrate and carry out tasks to the same standard as usual. We believe employers can play a crucial role in supporting staff during these times of difficulty, while also taking proactive steps to promote emotional and financial wellbeing in the workplace. That’s why this Mental Health Awareness week, which focusses on the issue of stress, we are launching our new employers’ best practice checklist outlining the actions organisations can take to support a healthy and productive workforce.

The figures

Our research shows that up to a quarter of the UK workforce are, to some extent, experiencing financial insecurity. This could be as a result of debt, insecure working hours, or difficulty meeting day to day living costs such as rent and other essential bills,

Two thirds of this group also report at least one sign of poor mental health, such as difficulties sleeping and concentrating. They may find themselves spending an increasing amount of time worrying about bills and visits from bailiffs, or experiencing feelings of anxiety and panic attacks.

“Sleep deprivation is a huge factor. You can hold out for a while when things start to go wrong/debts grow, but after a while the anxiety kicked in a lot.”

“I spend more time thinking about how I am going to help clear the debt we have, if people are going to come knocking my door rather than concentrating on what I am supposed to be doing.”

Worries at work

While many of these difficulties may arise as a result of circumstances that are unrelated to a person’s job, they can quickly begin to affect the way people behave and function in the workplace. Half of employees who are struggling financially say they feel they work less carefully or less efficiently than they would like, while being twice as likely to report difficulties concentrating.

“Every month I had to hit targets to get bonuses as the basic pay was not quite enough to live on. When the brain fog started with my depression I found it increasingly difficult to hit those targets, which created more stress and pressure.”

There are also a number of factors at play in the workplace that can exacerbate someone’s financial situation or cause them further distress. This includes having to cover additional costs associated with employment such as expenses or social activities, working in an office where there is a culture of stigma toward mental health problems or financial difficulty – which may prevent a person seeking help – or barriers to taking sick leave.

What can employers do?

Many employers are well aware that it is in their best interests to support the health and wellbeing of their staff, and are already taking steps to achieve this. However, for these measures to be effective they need to be part of a comprehensive approach, which includes supporting staff’s financial wellbeing.

Our new best practice checklist is designed to help employers identify the actions they can take to achieve this, including:

  • Proactively providing staff with information about how to manage their financial wellbeing, and signposting to advice services where appropriate
  • Paying for work expenses, such as accommodation and travel, up front
  • Training managers and HR staff to better understand the causes and consequences of financial difficulties, and how they can support staff members struggling with their mental health and/or finances
  • Partnering with financial services providers to offer payroll savings schemes, to make it easier for employees to save.

Make the most of our hub

This is one of a number of guides we have published in our Best Practice hub to help organisations across a range of industries to improve financial and emotional wellbeing, whether of their customers, service users or staff. Our current checklists include guidance for members of the banking, gambling, insurance, utility and housing sectors, but we are always looking to develop new resources. So if you are working in a sector that is not yet covered and would like to suggest a new guide please get in touch. We are also keen to hear from, and celebrate, firms that are adopting our ideas.