Personal indebtedness is a taboo subject that needs to be brought into the light. Monica Kalia explains how it can affect so much of our lives

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There’s a huge focus today on wellness, with countless voices across the media providing advice on everything from diets to exercise programmes. Where mental health is concerned we’ve experienced a revolution in the way that it is now openly discussed, and this is thankfully helping to remove the stigma associated with the condition.

At Neyber we’re great supporters of this trend and believe that it will ultimately lead to a more mindful, healthier society, where people live longer and better lives.

One major taboo, however, exists and our failure to address this has ramifications for the physical and mental health of many ordinary people. This relates to our inability to discuss financial wellbeing and, in particular, indebtedness. It means that short-term fixes are put in place when cash is scarce, when long-term solutions are needed. This is why so many people have credit card debts or have taken out payday loans and are paying punitive rates of interest as a consequence.

At Neyber we’re on a mission to end this needless spiral of indebtedness and believe that financial mindfulness can achieve this. The best definition that we’ve found of mindfulness comes from Janice Marturano, deputy general counsel of the US corporation General Mills.

She defines it as “training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected”. Where our finances are concerned there has never been a greater need for financial mindfulness.

Neyber’s report into the “DNA of Financial Wellbeing”, based on an independent UK wide survey of 10,000 employees, shows the scale of the crisis. With our primary focus on workplace solutions, our research is showing us that debt is having a negative impact on concentration, sickness, absence and energy levels. These are all causing suboptimal performance.

The report reveals how personal financial stresses are contributing to the reduction in GDP, with 17.5m working hours being lost by employees taking time off as a result of financial stress.

It also highlights the effect financial worries can have on our efficiency at work with more than half (55%) of employees saying that financial pressure affects their behaviour and ability to perform their job in the workplace – rising to 62% for those under 34. A further 51% say financial pressure affects their relationship with colleagues and 46% say that it affects their relationship with their line manager. Yet these worries extend beyond the workplace with almost a third (31%) losing sleep over money concerns and 39% suffering from anxiety – all of which has a huge impact on the workforce and their employers.

And it gets worse when you look at people’s ability to survive the sort of financial shock as a result of redundancy, illness or giving up work to look after ageing parents – all common factors in 21st century Britain. We’ve found that many people lack the means to weather even a temporary financial storm, with a third of workers having less than one month’s savings to provide a buffer against a financial crisis.

This is why we believe that we need to extend the mindfulness revolution into our financial circumstances. We need to get the issues out there and start talking about debt and enabling people to enjoy sustainable finances. In practical terms this means connecting with these financial issues.

Working people are being charged far too much for credit. Putting mindfulness into practice means focusing on bringing this down to levels that are morally right and sustainable for borrowers. If we achieve this, then we will be removing a huge unspoken source of anxiety from the shoulders of people across the UK. Then we should start to experience a more engaged workplace. Employees able to better concentrate on their jobs, perform better and feel that they are making a difference.

For more information or to receive a free copy of our report, contact the Neyber office: 0203 744 0552. www.neyber.co.uk

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