By James Herbert, CEO, Hastee

Certain subjects are deemed sensitive and can be difficult to discuss, particularly in a professional capacity. Money, relationships and health all fall into that category but are factors that can affect us professionally as well as personally. As workplace wellbeing goes beyond just fringe benefits offered to employees it is necessary to both the business and the worker to have these open conversations. Modern HR strategies put emphasis on building a healthy culture as it’s no secret that a happy workforce benefits the business and employee alike. Harvard research found that high performing teams are made up of happier workers. It would be ignorant for both sides to avoid such topics.

Suffering in silence

Financial wellbeing is arguably the topic that employers cannot avoid; monetary concern can be directly linked to the employer as someone’s job tends to be their main source of income. Financial wellbeing is one of those silent struggles that an extreme proportion of UK workers are dealing with. According to Hastee’s 2019 Workplace Wellbeing Study, only 21 per cent of UK workers feel they are able to live and budget within their means while 82 per cent use high-cost credit options such as payday loans, overdrafts and credit cards between pay-days.

Of course, it is wise to have boundaries between one’s professional and personal life – employers don’t want to appear to be imposing as much as they don’t want to be seen as neglecting their workers’ wellbeing. Nevertheless, as an integral counterpart in workers’ financial wellbeing, employers should take steps to open up this conversation and actively improve the financial wellbeing of their employees. The same study by Hastee also found that financial stress impacts workers’ sleep (45%), social lives (38%), relationships (34%) and health (32%). These results show that by addressing financial wellbeing, employers can simultaneously have a positive impact on other important and just as sensitive topics.

Evidently, there are a number of reasons as to why it is important to discuss these topics. Naturally, implementing an effective wellbeing scheme takes time and resources and therefore can be considered costly. Still, as research revealed that 27 per cent of workers feel that financial stress can affect performance at work, there is more reason to start the dialogue around money and implement solutions that workers manage their money better so they are not suffering in silence. Here are four things to consider when approaching the subject of money with your workers:

  1. Stay connected 

Build an environment where workers feel comfortable enough to express their concerns. Communicate an open door policy rather than having dedicated time set to discuss finances – it’s important that workers don’t feel forced to speak up at a time that is deemed convenient, financial wellbeing should be constantly maintained rather than a one-hit initiative.

CIPD research found that employers who are more transparent about their finances appear more trustworthy and approachable to their employees. Simple steps such as updates on the company’s fiscal performance can help form a safer space for employees to share any stresses they may have – connecting with your workers by being candid about company finances can be a great way to start the conversation and build trust. It indicates team-ship and creates a two-way levelled relationship by flattening the hierarchical structure.

  1. Do your homework 

As a business owner, there is a good chance that you’re in a comfortable position when it comes to personal finances. You might be slightly removed to the reality that your workers are facing, even though you’re paying them a fair and decent amount. Understanding the current personal financial landscape and acknowledging the challenges your workers may be up against is an important step in setting up any financial wellbeing scheme. For instance, did you know that rail fares increased by 46 per cent over the last decade – while wages have only grown by half as much? These are the kind of struggles people face, and keeping an eye on the landscape will help to understand the issues that might be silently affecting your workforce.

  1. Understanding goals 

An extra step would be to gauge if workers are experiencing any personal stresses. They may be a carer or have other financial burdens they are responsible for beyond your current understanding. Before implementing any financial wellbeing activities, it is important to recognise the individualist nature of money – an effective wellbeing scheme should be targeted enough to the commonalities identified in your workforce but also allow flexibility as people’s situations evolve. Asking those questions can help employers tailor their approach so workers get the most out of any financial wellbeing schemes.

Do you know what your people are working towards? From homeownership to a wedding or dream holiday, to simply paying off debt or improving a credit score, a financial education programme can be easily implemented through an email campaign and online content. This can provide discreet and easily digestible information and advice for managing personal finances and working towards those financial goals.

  1. Build financial wellbeing into your workplace wellbeing strategy

Supporting workers in reaching their goals is more impactful than you might realise. And in doing so, you can increase attendance and productivity by helping lead more fulfilling lifestyles and reducing their financial stress. The Workplace Wellbeing study found workers value employers who implement financial wellbeing solutions with more than half saying they believe employers have a responsibility to offer financial support through financial wellbeing resources and tools. The study also found digital money management tools have helped 66 per cent of workers feel more productive.

You don’t have to have those awkward conversations, but just letting your workers know your door is open can help them value being part of your business all the more. With digital tools and financial education programmes readily available for employers to implement quickly and easily, you can improve financial wellbeing in your workforce, in turn attracting, retaining and engaging the best talent.

Nothing about it need be awkward.

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