The Importance of Financial Wellbeing in the Workplace
By Patricia Fuller, PhD, Director of Wellness Engineering
Given the impact that financial stress has on employee productivity and health, employers should consider addressing financial wellbeing in their learning and development plans.
Current State of Financial Wellbeing
According to Financial Capability in the United States 2016, Americans feel more financially secure today than they did a decade ago. Where 16% reported satisfaction with their personal financial condition in 2009, by 2015 that number had nearly doubled to 31%.1 Despite the improvement, approximately 50% of employees, consistently report financial stress. Over 40% of those reporting financial stress, say it has increased in the last 12 months. Insufficient emergency savings, inability to retire, and difficulty meeting monthly expenses have topped the list of financial concerns in pwc’s Employee Financial Wellness Survey every year since 2012.2
The relative circumstances that dictate a sense of financial wellbeing are best described as financial security rather than accumulated wealth. Individuals with high financial wellbeing handle their money well. They spend less than they make, they tuck away a few dollars for a rainy day and participate in employer-sponsored 401K or other retirement savings vehicles.
The Impact of Stress on Productivity
Productivity suffers when employees are preoccupied by issues relating to their personal finances. In the aggregate, 25% of employees report this type of distraction. Millennials lead the list of those impacted, followed by Gen X and Baby Boomers. Of those distracted, over 40% report spending three hours or more each week thinking about or dealing with personal financial issues.
The Impact of Stress on Health
Stress increases the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these three conditions are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. They are also the leading drivers of the nation’s $3.3 trillion in annual health care costs.3
Further, chronic conditions are caused or worsened by the lifestyle choices used to cope with stress. Coping mechanisms contributing to chronic conditions include poor nutrition, lack of physical activity and tobacco use.
The Impact of Financial Wellbeing on Your Business
Given the losses in productivity and the costs of stress-related illness, employers have an economic interest in addressing the financial wellbeing of their employee population. According to MetLIfe’s 16th Annual US Employee Benefit Trends Study4 published in 2018, employees are increasingly looking to their employers to play a more active role in their financial security. Of the employees responding to the survey, 84% responded that they would like to learn more about financial wellness. Yet, only 18% of their employers are currently offering any workshops, planning or tools to promote financial wellbeing. For employers, this is a missed opportunity to enrich the employer/employee relationship by providing a benefit that employees are eager to have.
At BKS-Partners, we espouse a holistic view of wellbeing. Based on annual research by the Gallup organization5, we design and deliver wellness programs based on the five areas of modifiable wellbeing —including financial wellbeing. We believe that by creating a culture where employees feel safe and valued both physically and financially, they will deliver world class business performance. The research supports that we are onto something. Four studies cited in a recent report,6 establish a connection between investment in wellness programs and high performing companies. In each of the studies, the market performance of companies scoring high on various health indices including the C. Everett Koop Award, the HERO Scorecard, and the Corporate Health Achievement Award (CHAA), unilaterally outperformed the S&P 500 index.
Because return on investment evidence for wellness programs has been focused on medical cost savings, it’s been historically difficult to gain C-Suite support outside of human resources. This growing body of evidence and the results we’ve achieved at BKS Partners support a broader view of and an investment in employee wellbeing. By starting with financial wellbeing, you stand to immediately engage each generation of your workforce. The ripple effect of this seemingly small beginning could result in the employee engagement that consistently delivers exceptional business performance and results.
When budgeting for your learning and development plan, consider including financial wellbeing in your curriculum. Beyond building awareness, BKS-Partners’ Wellbeing Workshops leverage expertise in behavioral economics and adult education that results in sustainable change for the long term.
1 Lin, J. T., Bumcrot, C., Ulicny, T., et al. (2016). Financial Capability in the United States 2016. FINRA Investor Education Foundation. Retrieved October 22, 2018, from www.USFinancialCapability.org
2 pwc. (2018). Employee Financial Wellness Survey
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Disease. Retrieved December 21, 2018 from: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/costs/index.htm
4 ORC International. (2018) Experience a more human workplace. MetLife’s 16th Annual US Benefit Trends Survey.
5 Gallup-Sharecare (2010-2018). Well-being index. https://wellbeingindex.sharecare.com
6 Putnam-Farr, N., Dhar, R., Tam, G., et al. (2018). Employee well-being: Looking beyond health care cost savings to measure business performance gains. Optum, Inc. White Paper.