Return to work strategies: The significance of financial wellbeing for employees with money worries

Return to work strategies after COVID-19
  • Financial wellbeing
  • 5 minute read

With the government once again asking employees to ‘work from home if they can’, many people across the country are continuing to face a period of uncertainty.

Cases of the coronavirus continue to rise and previously thriving city centres and high streets remain subdued. Your workers may be feeling nervous about taking public transport or worry about how they are going to maintain social distancing when back in the office, they may also be experiencing money worries caused by the pandemic.

But employers are continuing to look to the future; planning ahead for a return to a more familiar looking day when offices are again full of life; so during these challenging times, it's vital that you continue to support your employees and make financial wellbeing a priority when looking ahead at your post COVID-19 return to work strategies.

The link between financial wellbeing and productivity at work

Financial wellbeing doesn't only refer to objective indicators such as credit card debt, savings, or the ability to stick to a budget. Financial wellbeing is also highly subjective, including people's satisfaction with their perceived financial status and future prospects. This means that if your staff feel anxious about their job security or workplace wellbeing, they're likely to experience a drop in concentration and productivity.

Even before the pandemic, our own research found that an overwhelming 94% of UK employees suffered from money worries, with more than 77% of them saying that it impacted their work. That's 25 million UK workers suffering from a significant drop in productivity (22%), absenteeism (19%), or higher healthcare costs (19%).

According to Personnel Today, employees with money worries are six times more likely to produce substandard quality work than their colleagues. All this will have a direct impact on your bottom line if you don't make workplace wellbeing a priority.

COVID-19 has greatly compounded the situation with many employees being furloughed or experiencing unexpected financial hardship. In fact, we found that as many as 46% of employees felt financially unprepared for this emergency.

Moreover, 38% of HR professionals believe that COVID-19 has led to less financial security among their employees, and recent ONS figures state that more than 6 million workers in the UK are concerned about their jobs.

This underscores the need to support your employees and help them navigate their way through this crisis. With a strong focus on financial education, we can help you help your staff gain a greater understanding and appreciation of their benefits. This will foster a stronger sense of control and bolster employee engagement.

Returning to work

Returning to work after unemployment or furlough can be challenging for employees, especially when the workplace doesn't feel the same. There may be a lower headcount than before and additional space between desks. Keeping a distance from their colleagues may feel uncomfortable.

According to the BBC, nine in 10 people who have worked from home during the lockdown would like to continue doing so in some capacity. This may be particularly true if they are suffering from money worries, as they can make significant savings on their daily commute and other expenses by not coming into the office.

Regular contact with furloughed employees is key to their financial wellbeing as it can help them manage their anxiety. With so much uncertainty right now, giving them the facts and providing clarity will help improve their workplace wellbeing and general wellbeing as well.

On 29 May 2020, for example, the Treasury announced the furlough scheme would be gradually limited, meaning that employers need to start paying more staff costs. News like this may make your team feel even more uncertain about their future; leading to worsening money worries. If you can come through for your employees at this time, you can earn their loyalty and trust for the long-term.

Strategies for helping your employees

1) Start a conversation and stay in touch with them

If your employees have been away from work for a long time, they may be feeling quite isolated especially if their colleagues are also friends. Help them feel connected by starting a conversation and make sure that your managers check in regularly with their team.

Staying connected is important particularly when working remotely so now's a good time to encourage productive conversations that may reveal any signs of money worries that could impact workplace wellbeing. 

According to our research, employers who provide resources for financial advice and guidance during the coronavirus pandemic have proven popular. Around one in five (21%) say they are likely to use it, and this rises to 27% among those aged 25-34 and to 38% between the ages of 35-44.

2) Explain their employee benefits

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption in our daily lives. Many of your employees may have children who have returned to schools in equally uncertain conditions that could lead to school closures or an unexpected need for isolation. Knowing this may cause concern among your employees, so it's vital that they know the facts.

As part of their employee benefits, for example, let them know that they are entitled to statutory Sick Pay. They could receive up to £95.85 per week of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they're too ill to work for up to 28 weeks. This may also apply if they have to isolate because of suspected cases of coronavirus.

Remind them about all their benefits including travel insurance, pension enrolment, or group income protection, depending on your company policy. Providing a highly personalised employee benefits service can help you to attract and retain the best talent and ease their money worries at this time.

3) Encourage struggling employees to ask for help

Being open, informative and supportive is exactly what your employees need right now. They may have no one to discuss these problems with at home, so encouraging struggling employees to ask for help may turn the situation around for them.

Many banks have been flexible and accommodating during the COVID-19 crisis, and employees may be able to seek a mortgage holiday or delay a payment. The Residential Landlords' Association has also advised its members to try to be flexible with tenants, and Councils have a hardship fund to help the most vulnerable people in their area.

It may sound simple, but giving your employees this information may be exactly what they need right now.

The pandemic has been challenging for everyone but now is your chance to support your employees in the best way you can. The importance of financial wellbeing for workers with money worries cannot be understated. You can help them to be proactive about their situation by providing clarity and keeping the dialogue open.

Here at Close Brothers, we provide financial education services to organisations and employees throughout their careers.

We can help you and your staff grow together and support each other. Find out how by requesting a call with us today.

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