Don’t believe the stats that show sickness absence is falling. Reward heads still have to work out their Employer Health Service
“You can’t buy happiness”, or so the popular phrase has it, and while this may be the case in some circumstances, the link between wellbeing and sound finances is more direct than some might imagine.
A new study* has found that being financially secure can make us more resilient when it comes to day-to-day stress and has an impact on overall wellbeing and happiness. Indeed, the more financially secure an employee is, the less likely they are to experience loneliness. It was also found that if a person has an illness – the common cold, for example – and this is combined with another stressor, the symptoms of the illness can become exaggerated. Therefore, the addition of financial stress to any illness can affect an employee’s recovery.
In addition, BHSF’s ‘Breaking the Cycle’ report demonstrates how stressful lifestyles are directly leading to mental health issues and absenteeism. Finances were identified as the greatest contributor (31%) to employee stress, manifesting in the workplace through lack of productivity and reduced concentration.
Yet employees feeling the stress of financial problems struggle to know where to turn for help. With productivity in the UK at an all-time low**, it is essential employers seek to support employees and crucially, equip them with the tools they need should there be a crisis.
Put simply, this can be reflected in a straightforward mathematical equation: Poor finances + Stress = Reduced productivity.
In 2016, 4.4 million work days were lost to pressures relating to finances***. Despite this, financial stress is not in itself a diagnosable health condition and is often ignored in an employee wellness plan. However, when this one specific stressor can have such a major impact on employee wellbeing, employers hoping to tackle productivity must make this a priority. There is a distinct lack of awareness in terms of how long employees believe they can last without income during a period of illness – and this can lead to sleepless nights. This, coupled with the fact that seven out of 10 people are exposed to a financial emergency every year, and a quarter have no savings to fall back on****, spells disaster for an unprepared and unsupported employee.
It’s essential that employees are given the tools needed to prepare for whatever life throws at them, and this is where the employer is best placed to educate and empower employees to take full responsibility for their finances. In turn, this will produce a more resilient workforce, and financially stable population that can become more productive.
Employers can encourage people to create their own financial safety net – an all-important back-up plan which not only supports the employee should they need help, but also creates peace of mind knowing that whatever crisis comes their way they are prepared. Employers can play a vital role in encouraging the uptake of sick pay insurance, cancer cover, debt advice and intervention if needed – all of which can often be delivered at zero cost to a bottom line.
Initiatives like these can be easily implemented, ensuring finances needn’t be an additional stress factor if time is needed off work. Products like BHSF’s Pay4Sure sick pay insurance, which also provides a GP consultation service and telephone helpline, not only offers financial support, but also provides employees with the tools they need to become more resilient.
Similarly, the provision of low-cost cancer insurance, which can be deducted from salaries, can save much unwanted stress. No employer wants to be in a position of seeing an employee suffer financially while fighting cancer. It is our belief that employers should encourage their staff to put in place adequate financial provision that can come into effect in the event of a diagnosis.
Employers are best placed to promote wellbeing, by looking beyond physical health and influencing culture change. Implementing products like Pay4Sure will ensure employees are protected during a time where they are most vulnerable – and support them to return to work when they are ready, without the stress of a financial black cloud looming overhead.
Download the Breaking the Cycle report here: bhsf.co.uk/employeestress to find out more about creating a resilient workforce.
* University of Cologne, 12 May 2016. Loneliness in midlife: The risk of becoming lonely is not limited to old age.
** ONS Labour Productivity report
***Health & Safety Executive (2016) latest statistics from the Labour Force Survey (2016)
**** “Over-stretched, overdrawn, underserved” – The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute