Employee Financial Stress At All Time High

Article originally published by HR Morning on May 24, 2022. Written by Renee Cocchi.

The pandemic was and still is a source of great financial stress for many people. And like we’ve mentioned before, employees who are focused on personal financial problems aren’t focused on their work. So why are we still talking about this? 

Because financial stress is still taking a toll on employees’ physical and mental health. 

Sure, some people are feeling more comfortable going out and socializing. But the sting of rising prices from the gas pumps to the grocery stores is still affecting a lot of family budgets. 

Financial stress is skyrocketing

In fact, there has been an 11% increase in employee financial stress since 2021, according to BrightPlan’s 2022 Wellness Barometer Survey on the state of employee well-being. 

Seventy-two percent of employees said they’re stressed about their finances. That’s almost three-quarters of the 1,500 respondents (both HR and non-HR) at companies with 1,000 or more employees. And their top financial concern is rising inflation (79%), followed by adequate retirement planning (59%). Other stressors include, market volatility (56%), having sufficient emergency savings (55%), and paying off debt (44%). 

Being stressed out isn’t good for anyone’s physical or mental health. That’s probably why nine out of 10 respondents said they’re currently “reassessing their financial situation.” With employee financial stress at an all-time high, 77% said it’s affecting their mental health and 52% said it’s impacted their physical well-being. How’s this affecting their work?

On average, employees who have financial stress reported losing 11.4 hours in productivity every week. According to the survey, that’s over $4 billion in lost productivity weekly for U.S. employers.

What employees want

How can you keep this from affecting your business? By giving employees what they want.

It should be no surprise that the No.1 desired benefit in 2022 is financial wellness benefits (54%). Last year it was in third place, but jumped 29% in a year. Marthin De Beer, BrightPlan founder and CEO, shares:

“As the pandemic’s impact on the workplace lessens and economic uncertainty increases, financial wellness is top of mind. Employees are more concerned and stressed about their finances than ever before. Fortunately, companies have gained trust among their workforce. By offering innovative wellness benefits, employers can leverage that trust to attract, retain and engage their best workers.”

Not only do employees want help from their organizations; nearly nine out of 10 (88%) expect their employers to give them the tools and resources to help with their finances. That may sound demanding, but it’s not meant to. Ninety-five percent of workers said receiving such benefits will have a positive impact: 

  • 60% say they would work harder
  • 59% would feel more financially secure
  • 58% would be more engaged and productive, and
  • 34% would be more committed and stay longer.

The things they want are:

  • Investing tools (88%)
  • Financial education (87%), and 
  • Access to financial professionals (84%).

What employers are offering

Of course, employers haven’t been sitting around twiddling their fingers. As an HR/Benefits pro, you’ve been working hard to help your company come up with enticing benefit offerings. Here’s what your peers have been offering:

  • Flexible work options (62%)
  • Higher salaries and bonuses (56%)
  • Increased professional development and reskilling (54%), and 
  • Holistic wellness benefits (52%).

Employees are appreciative of these beefed-up benefits, but where they’re most appreciative is, again, in the financial setting. 

While employees reported benefits to have “slightly” or “much improved” since 2021 in just about every category, the biggest increases were in: 

  • salaries and bonuses (62% in 2022 vs. 41% in 2021)
  • financial wellness (57% in 2022 vs. 46% in 2021), and 
  • 401(k) company matches (51% in 2022 vs. 39% in 2021).

Awareness of benefits

One important factor to bring up is employees still find benefits overwhelming. And with the expansion of so many benefit categories, it’s important to provide clear and concise information with regular updates. Providing too much information at once causes employees to not read and digest everything. In fact, numerous employees aren’t even aware of all the benefits available to them. 

For instance, the study found when HR and workers were asked what benefits were available, here’s how they responded:

  • Financial wellness-related (HR 74% vs. Workers 59%)
  • Mental health-related (HR 65% vs. Workers 50%)
  • Professional development (HR 56% vs. Workers 47%), and
  • Caregiving assistance for children or aging parents (HR 32% vs. Workers 26%).

It’s up to HR/Benefit pros to make sure employees know about and understand all the benefits their organization provides, otherwise what’s the point of having them if they aren’t going to be used. Small chunks of information are easier for most people to remember, and colorful infographics grab their attention.