Are Your Employees’ Efforts to Make Ends Meet Affecting Their Performance?
A happy and productive workforce is the lifeblood of any business, but new research shows that increased financial stress may directly impact employees’ productivity.
SoFi at Work’s 2022 study The Future of Workplace Financial Well-Being finds that employees spend over nine hours a week at work dealing with issues related to their financial situation. That’s more than a full workday every week, or the equivalent of 12 work weeks each year.
While only 18% of employees claimed that financial stress is impacting their productivity, a whopping 75% of employees at all financial levels said that they worry about their finances while at work. This suggests that a much larger percentage of employees are experiencing some sort of financially-motivated productivity loss, whether consciously or unconsciously.
For HR leaders that want to maintain a healthy, engaged, and productive workforce, the question remains: How do you know if employees are bringing their financial worries to work? And, more importantly: What can you do about it? Over the next few months, SoFi at Work will explore the state of employee financial well-being across a variety of topics and discuss innovative approaches. In the meantime, here are some positive steps HR leaders can take to help reduce financial stress and boost engagement right away.
Acknowledge Employees’ Financial Stress
The last two years have taken a significant toll on employees’ financial well-being. In SoFi at Work’s study, 51% of employees said they were more stressed about their finances in 2021 than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic drove part of that stress; however, the steadily rising cost of living and high levels of student (and other) debt continue to keep workers on edge. Indeed, 4 out of 10 workers rated their financial well-being as average, poor, or very poor, and 75% currently have at least one source of financial stress.
Prolonged financial uncertainty and the looming threat of debt have been shown to have a rippling effect on employees’ mental health. Therefore, before responding to the productivity issues alone, employers need to deploy empathy with their employees and acknowledge that financial stress is likely a lingering issue impacting them during and outside of work hours.
Close the Communication Gap
One of the reasons why there often isn’t a direct connection drawn between workplace financial stress and productivity is the lack of ongoing communication around employee financial wellness. While HR leaders largely recognize the importance of building employee financial wellness, many do not know the extent to which their employees are worried about their finances and how that can impact their work.
According to the SoFi at Work study, only 49% of employees feel comfortable talking about their financial well-being with their managers. In comparison, 69% of HR leaders think those conversations are already happening. This suggests that if these conversations are happening, they aren’t happening enough and might not be as thorough as they need to be.
To truly know whether financial stress affects employees’ productivity, there needs to be stronger communication around financial wellness between managers, HR representatives, and employees. Workers need to feel comfortable sharing financial issues with their managers, and managers need to be willing and ready to listen.
Look at Employees That are Disproportionately Vulnerable
Another reason it can be difficult to measure the impact of financial stress on productivity is that different employees can have vastly different financial situations. While some employees may be actively saving against their short- and long-term financial goals, others may be struggling to make ends meet or financially unprepared for a major upcoming financial expense, like a new child.
A good place to start looking for productivity issues is among your most financially vulnerable employees. These are the employees that don’t have enough to cover their basic financial needs or living costs, and that may be more people than you think. In SoFi’s study, only 49% of employees said they could handle an unexpected expense. Other research shows that a third of working adults feel somewhat or very uncomfortable about their ability to pay for a $400 emergency expense, and nearly one in ten would not be able to cover it all.
Helping your most financially-vulnerable employees take charge of their finances is an important part of supporting their financial wellness, which is something that employees SoFi at Work surveyed said they believe their employer should be responsible for, according to the survey.
Employees have spoken: They’re financially stressed out and looking to their employers for support. Improving their financial wellness is a win-win for both employers and employees, and it starts with recognizing the link between financial stress and productivity.
Read the full SoFi at Work Future of Workplace Financial Wellbeing report to discover more insights on financial wellness from a survey of 1,600 HR leaders and employees.
If you’re ready to start empowering your workforce with innovative financial well-being solutions, education, and benefits, SoFi at Work can help.
Photo credit: iStock/Jay Yuno
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