Mental health and financial health typically go hand in hand. For years, studies have shown a link between stress over finances and an increase in mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. And on the flip side of the coin, people with mental illnesses are more likely to have financial problems.
Recent research also supports this important connection. In SoFi at Work’s The Future of Workplace Financial Well-Being 2022 survey (which included 800 HR leaders and 800 full-time employees), 75% of workers said they were stressed about financial issues. They also reported that this stress has worsened their sleep (38%), mental health (36%), physical health (27%), and ability to focus at work (23%).
Financial stress and mental health problems can lead to increased absenteeism and low productivity among your workers. As a result, it may make sense to help employees combat financial issues and mental health problems at the same time. Indeed, over the last few years, many employers have been exploring ways that financial well-being benefits and mental health benefits could work together to build the support and offer the solutions employees need to weather financial and mental stress. Here are some lessons from those efforts that might benefit you and your organization.
Recognize How Financial Well-Being Programs Can Support Mental Health in the Workplace
Financial planning, budgeting tools, debt counseling, and financial education services have become increasingly popular employer offerings in recent years. These tools can help employees become financially stable so that they can move on to long-term savings and goals. In addition, gaining control over day-to-day financial challenges can help reduce the stress and anxiety associated with financial instability.
Now may be a particularly good time to emphasize the connection between financial and mental health wellness to your workforce. According to SoFi’s survey data, 84% of employees believe their company should be responsible for their financial well-being, but only 55% feel their company is concerned about their financial wellness. What’s more, 86% said these benefits impact their desire to stay with their employer.
Offer a Choice of Flexible Financial-Contribution Programs
Personalized benefits that are relevant to individuals’ situations can be especially helpful in reducing the financial stress employees are feeling right now. Depending on an employee’s personal situation, payroll deduction emergency savings accounts, student loan repayment programs, and/or debt management tools may be tailor-made tools that can help them handle the financial stressors that may be contributing to depression, anxiety, and other mental illness.
This is a good time to take inventory and see what solutions might be missing from your financial well-being benefits. Questions to consider include:
• Have you set up an automated emergency savings program for employees?
• And if you have, are you sure your employees know it exists and how to participate?
• Do you have a 401(k) matching program for employees paying off student loans?
• Are your education and financial planning efforts aimed at all employees, not just those focused on long-term savings?
Help Employees Keep an Eye on Long-Range Goals, Too
Today’s high cost of living combined with immediate financial concerns like repaying student loans and credit card debt means that many employees are simply not saving enough for the future. In fact, SoFi’s financial wellness survey found that 47% of workers are concerned that the money they have won’t last, and only 54% said they are securing their financial future.
Despite the demand for short-term saving solutions, you may also want to help employees balance short-term and long-term goals. Even for younger employees, you don’t want to take the focus completely off retirement and college savings benefits. And for employees who are closer to retirement, maintaining savings is important, too. Helping everyone in your workforce, regardless of where they are, maintain a balance between short-term and long-range goals can be an important step to developing their overall financial well-being and lowering their stress.
Human resource leaders, mental health professionals, and economists all agree that financial stress can have far-reaching consequences for your workforce, including increased mental and physical health issues and reduced engagement and productivity.
Given what we know about the connections between mental health and financial well-being, combining your mental health and financial well-being benefits to create customized packages accessible and meaningful to all employees can help ensure your workforce is ready for the challenges ahead.
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