Boosting Employee Mental Health By Building A Stronger Financial Future
In the U.S. today, inflation and high interest rates have exacerbated many people’s financial woes. Many Americans are dipping into their savings to pay their current expenses, rather than saving for the future.Financial stress can directly impact an employee’s mental and physical health as well as interpersonal relationships. The implications of such stress can be dire.In response, companies and leaders need to show their support in easing these concerns. During a From Day One webinar titled “Mind over Money: Boosting Employee Mental Health by Reducing Their Financial Stress,” From Day One contributing editor and journalist Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza hosted leaders in a discussion on financial well-being and how companies can help build financially secure futures for their employees.How Financial Stress Appears in the WorkplaceIn the workplace, internal struggles with money can come up in various ways. In a study by Morgan Stanley, researchers found employees burdened by financial concerns are nine times more likely to have troubled relationships with coworkers and are twice as likely to be searching for a new job.In the U.S., nearly a third of employees stated their financial concerns have directly impacted their work productivity. “These employees are struggling with presenteeism,” Kerry Symon, director of clinical partnerships at mental health solution company Spring Health said. “If they’re dealing with stress on debt, or staying out of debt, they’re not focused on work or on the culture.”Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza moderated the conversation between Stephanie Denton of Northstar and Kerry Symon of Spring Health (photo by From Day One)For employees with financial concerns, poor health can often follow. PwC’s financial wellness survey found 56% of employees said their financial concerns negatively impact their sleep, with 44% stating it had also impacted their physical health as well. “When employees are trying to cope with financial stress, they are more likely to have digestive issues, headaches, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, and are more susceptible to getting sick,” Symon added.These health issues not only increase absences but can cause employees to further lose opportunities to connect with their coworkers. “When they’re not at work, they’re not connecting with their co-workers,” Symon said. “If they’re not going out to lunch with them because of their fear of spending money, this makes them feel more isolated and can exacerbate the levels of depression.”Supporting Employees Financially Through BenefitsTo help employees alleviate their financial stress, leaders can lean on their benefits. In addition to common benefits like mental health benefits and paid leave, companies can offer targeted financial benefits that are more tailored to their employee needs.“Transportation benefits, tuition reimbursement, child care assistance are all great benefits to add,” Stephanie Denton, director of people and talent at financial wellness program Northstar, said. “If you have an office in New York, which can be expensive to get to and from places, you can pay for transportation perks. You really want to make sure that the benefits that you do offer reflect what your employee population needs.”Along with traditional retirement matching and company stock options, employees are seeking more benefits that support them directly financially. A study on employees’ well-being discovered that nearly 75% of employees state they aren’t satisfied with their company’s financial benefits and aren’t utilizing them. For companies and leaders, this not only means wasted resources but an immediate need to upgrade and reevaluate their offerings.“You want to meet employees where they are in their financial journey because everyone has a different level of financial knowledge. You want to make sure that whatever solution you’re providing meets all of those needs,” Denton said. “If [the information] is too much or too little for what they need or if it's not going to help them, employees will disengage immediately.”For cases like this, Denton recommends companies work with a financial wellness partner like Northstar that provides one-on-one advisor services to employees to help them make smart, financial decisions.“Most people don't have financial advisors that they can talk to. If you are not understanding the impact of the decisions that you’re making financially, you could have potentially bigger issues to navigate further down the line,” Denton said. “Having the professional come in to talk can help navigate that because they're getting to know you personally. These [advisors] can help them guide you to make decisions that make the most sense for you for your specific situation.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partners, Northstar and Spring Health, for sponsoring this webinar. Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.