Tackling financial stress in the workplace

By Mike Quigg

Have you noticed the recent plethora of industry articles calling “financial well-being” the hot trend in wellness? When did this become new? Well, I am here to tell you that it is NOT a new trend. In fact, a survey from the American Psychological Association shows that is has been the leading stressor for individuals since the survey, Stress in America: Paying With Our Health, was released in 2007.

Why suddenly all the coverage? Who is this effecting and how? Well, financial stress seems to be an equal opportunity stressor as data from some of our own surveys has shown that a significant percentage of people have financial problems, regardless of age or gender. Financial problems are linked to poor perception around job performance, and impacts people’s perception of their health, with more than 75 percent reporting moderately serious problems with or concerns about their health.

So, with a significant amount of people reporting financial problems, and the serious impact that they have at work and on people’s health, who are people turning to for help with their finances? We found that people most often look to a friend or family member for financial services with a close second indicating they do not seek financial advice, with the lowest amount of respondents (less than 10 percent) indicating they look to employer resources for advice. Some may read the fact that the majority of respondents are either getting advice from non-finance professionals (unless their friends or family are financial advisors) or not looking for advice at all and think there is a real problem, but I think there is a tremendous opportunity for employers to better improve the financial awareness and well-being of their employees.

But where to start? There are a lot of recommendations out there for robust tools and approaches, but as I mentioned before, very few are people are currently looking to their employer-sponsored resources for help. One could argue that a great place to start is in the workplace where employers can focus on driving awareness and providing education to employees. We know that for people to engage in almost anything, it needs to be important and personal to them. A great start may be to focus on opportunities where employees have the autonomy to choose a financial goal that is important to them: such as reducing debt, building a better budget, or planning for the future. The information presented to them should be dynamic and personalized to their current situation — allowing for the employee to become more aware of their situation with approaches to improve, and perhaps guidance to those more robust resources. Core to Vitality’s approach to holistic wellness, we have been involved in financial wellness for some time, with things like our HealthyFood program, that offers discounts to our members on when they purchase healthy food. However, given the outcome of our U.S. member analysis, we’ve developed an approach that gives members choices and puts them in control. Stay tuned for more details about our new program and for an in-depth analysis of the data behind people’s financial behavior and its link to overall health.

Mike Quigg, MS, Director of Health Strategy, Vitality

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