How personal financial pressures can impact mental wellbeing in the workplace

Written by Chloe Hall.

The last twelve months have seen the cost of living soaring for everybody in the UK. Many people are experiencing increasing levels of debt, huge rises in rent, mortgage interest rates, utility bills, and their essential shopping.

While in some lucky cases wages have risen, the vast majority have not kept pace with rising costs. The impact on mental wellbeing is inextricably linked and well-documented: millions of people are experiencing mental health issues arising from financial worries, leading to stress, anxiety and depression.

The Money and Pensions’ Service has suggested that while many people feel worried when thinking about their personal finances, 80% of people do not feel comfortable talking about money worries. This figure rises to over 90% for those who are experiencing mental health issues.

Mental health problems can also make reaching decisions about personal finances much more challenging. This situation is compounded because people tend to feel a sense of shame when it comes to talking about personal financial worries. Approximately half of employees under the age of 35 admit that financial pressure impacts their performance at work, so it’s clear more needs to be done to support team members to deal with financial anxiety and mental health at work.  

How does financial pressure impact work?

Those who experience financial stress are more prone to absence from work. Financial stress manifests in several ways, including needing time to handle personal finances, or more serious issues such as emotional exhaustion and stress related illness. For example, one study found that personal reasons typically caused two days absence per year, with workers who were experiencing higher financial stress levels reporting more days absent.

Sickness absence is a health and wellbeing issue that clearly affects performance. When employees fail to attend work as scheduled, organisations suffer losses to productivity, which in turn further damages the mental health of other team members.

Financial distress can also lead to presenteeism, in which employees attend work but, because of health problems or other personal issues, don’t perform to their usual standards. Financial stress can impact many areas of our lives, so it’s no surprise that employees often bring these issues to work. This can lead to employees either using work time to deal with financial matters or spending time and energy worrying about money.

This can have a significant impact on productivity. One study showed a correlation between financial stress and presenteeism: almost one in three employees who reported lost productivity in the previous month also reported financial stress.

Employees who are dealing with stress associated with financial concerns are likely to be tired, preoccupied, and may struggle to concentrate. This type of stress can lead to serious health problems, for example, raised blood pressure.

Moreover, an employee distracted by financial worries may have a generally low mood, feel negative and feel considerable worry about their immediate future both at work and at home. Low self-esteem is also a commonplace symptom of financial worry. These issues naturally impact workplace performance.

The bottom line for employers is that 18 million working hours are lost every year because of financial worries.

How to help employees with money worries

Normalise talking about worries

Supportively increasing knowledge and awareness of employees’ worries and needs is vital for the smooth running of any business.

Employers may be able to promote a number of strategies to make their working environment a positive one for anybody facing financial problems.

Any campaign which helps to destigmatise the prospect of talking about personal financial problems is beneficial for employees.

Provide access to financial advice

A business may also consider providing access to a financial adviser who could help to formulate personal strategies to tackle debt and everyday costs. Additionally, a company’s high street bank may be able to deliver an appropriate workplace presentation and provide a member of staff for individual consultation.

Help foster a healthy relationship with money

Many of us have a fraught, or even adversarial relationship with money, thinking of it as a source of stress. Others can view it as a means to relieve stress, suddenly spending money when we’re sad, angry, or even bored.

We can reframe our relationship with money in a more healthy, positive direction.

Help the team manage the symptoms of stress

A business can also continue to highlight healthy ways of dealing with stress. Businesses can support their teams to stay active through paying for gym memberships, or providing vouchers for exercise classes. While this won’t help with major financial anxieties, helping team members to better manage them can make a big difference to how individuals are feeling.

It’s beneficial for managers to make themselves accessible for open and meaningful conversations

Managers should try be accessible and approachable to talk to about mental health issues. Talking through issues, perhaps with a workplace mental health first aider, can also be a source of relief and a positive step to seeking further advice. This can help to avoid a further loss of confidence and low self-esteem.

Also, managers can support by acknowledging and normalising that financial stress is common and encouraging open communication.

Work socialising

Socialising in general has a positive impact on mental wellbeing. A company can encourage employees to keep in touch with colleagues, especially when working from home.

Be aware of unhealthy coping strategies

Financial worries can leave people vulnerable to addictive behavioural patterns. For example, some might turn to alcohol or gambling to distract themselves. A workplace mental health first aider can help employees to recognise symptoms and form strategies going forward.

The NHS provides advice on addiction here.

Supportive measures like these can benefit employees’ mental wellbeing which will help them to perform at their best, impacting in a positive way on the smooth running of the business as a whole.

We run a workshop on helping team members deal with financial anxiety.

The NHS offers a series of advice to help cope with financial worries.

The UK Government online portal offers advice on financial concerns.

Our mental health services directory, Wellbeing West London, can help you find mental health services near you.

Learn more about protecting mental health at work, or learn how to help your staff cope with the demands of work.

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Posted on: 14th July 2023