James Herbert: Time for an awkward conversation?

Money. Mental health. Relationship troubles. These are the kind of subjects that make people squirm when it comes to talking about issues we’re facing. It’s an intrinsically British trait to hold a stiff upper lip and keep things bottled up instead opening up and discussing the issues that trouble us. But it shouldn’t be.

Such subjects can be awkward to talk about with our partners, with our family and friends, so the last thing anyone wants to do is talk about these issues with their employer. Modern HR strategies place a lot of focus on wellbeing because employers know a happy, healthy workforce is good for business. But it’s hard to know what’s really going on in workers’ lives and whether they’re facing silent struggles that impact the way they work.

It’s only natural that employers don’t want to pry – they don’t want to be seen to be overstepping the mark. And often, with subjects like personal finance, employers won’t have the level knowledge to give the right advice. Fortunately we’re now in an age where employers can easily deploy technology that provides workers with the tools and education they need to get on top of their finances with no awkward conversations necessary.

Suffering in silence

Financial wellbeing is one of those silent struggles that an extreme proportion of UK workers are dealing with. 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 according to Hastee’s 2019 Workplace Wellbeing Study.

Employers can’t be blamed for being unaware of this when its one of those awkward subjects nobody wants to talk about. But avoiding the issue doesn’t help solve it. The cold hard truth is, untreated financial stress impacts both the worker and the business. The Hastee study revealed financial stress impacts workers’ sleep (45 per cent), social lives (38 per cent), relationships (34 per cent) and health (32 per cent).

Importantly, workers report that financial stress affects their performance at work (27 per cent ). All of these areas combined undoubtedly have an impact on how well people are able to function and concentrate at work.

Implementing a solution that helps workers manage their money better can help to increase productivity and retention as well as supporting recruitment. Here are three things to consider when approaching the subject of money with your workers:

1. Take a reading of the financial landscape

If you’re running a business, the chances are you’re doing at least ‘ok’ when it comes to your personal finances. You might be slightly removed from the reality that your workers are facing, even though you’re paying them a fair and decent wage. Understanding the current personal finance landscape and acknowledging what your workers are up against it is an important step in helping your workers get the best out of their money, so you can get the best out of your workers. For instance, did you know that rail fairs increased by 46 per cent over the last decade while wages have only grown by half as much? These are kind of struggles people are up against and keeping an eye on the landscape will help to understand the issues that might be silently impacting your workforce.

2. Understand their goals

Do you know what your people are working towards? From home ownership 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.

3. 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. Providing the tools and education which can cost the business nothing will help your workforce value being part of your business while enabling them to live their best lives free from financial stress. 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.