18 June

Supporting employees through financial difficulties and mental health challenges

We asked This is Me Manager, Bethan Aspland to share her key takeaways from our recent webinar Supporting Employees Through Financial Difficulties and Mental Health Challenges...

Financial difficulties and mental health are intricately linked, creating a cycle that can severely impact employees' wellbeing and productivity. Addressing this issue is essential for employers to support their workforce and maintain an effective workplace.

Here are several key takeaways from the recent webinar on the connection between financial hardship and mental health:

Mutual Reinforcement: Financial difficulties and mental health issues create a cycle where each exacerbates the other. At the webinar, Helen McNicholas from MQ Mental Health Research explained that ‘the relationship between financial difficulty and mental health is complex. And it certainly goes both ways.’

Impact on Mental Health: Financial hardship increases stress and anxiety. A survey from the Mental Health Foundation (2023) showed that 1 in 3 people are feeling anxious or stressed due to financial issues.

Impact on Work: 2023 CIPD research found that ‘since winter 2022, the proportion of employees who report that money worries have affected their ability to do their job, has increased from 28% to 33%

Disproportionate Effects: Vulnerable groups, including those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, young people, and ethnic minorities, are more severely impacted.

Financial Crisis: A new report by MQ Mental Health Research and the University of Glasgow supported by The Lord Mayor’s Appeal shows that financial crises significantly deteriorate mental health.

Lower Numeracy Confidence: Talking at the webinar, Tori Monks at National Numeracy told us that ‘nearly a third of UK adults say a lack of maths confidence means it's harder to cope with the stresses of life, including managing money.’

Employer’s Role

The webinar brought to light several challenges and solutions that employers can implement to support the workforce: 

“Stigma is what stops people seeking help early when they really need it.”  Paul Barrett, Bank Workers Charity

Challenge: There is still a significant stigma associated with financial difficulties, especially in the workplace.

Solution: Normalise financial difficulties and reduce the sense of shame by empowering employees with information illustrating how common these experiences are. For instance, by sharing graphics and statistics from sources like the StepChange Debt Charity.

“There are different reasons people fall into financial difficulty… And what you see as you look at that is it isn't recklessness, it's not irresponsibility with money, which is the assumption that people have about people that fall into financial difficulty and then create the stigma.”  Paul Barrett

Initiatives like "This is Me Storytelling" have shown that sharing personal stories can reduce stigma and encourage seeking help. 

Problem: Many employees are not engaging with the support available to them. Low engagement is often due to a combination of shame and a lack of awareness about the available resources.

Solution: Communicate frequently about the available support through various channels with inclusive and non-judgmental language.

“I think it is really important how you communicate. Because if you start talking about debt management, often there is that stigma around it. But actually, talk more around money saving and everybody wants to save money. We get much better engagement.”  Rebecca Eaton, Cadent Gas

Problem: There is often a lack of understanding among senior leaders about the financial challenges faced within the organisation.

“It’s important to understand a bit more about who we work with, who we're taking on and the backgrounds that they come from, so that we don't just see people as an employee number, but as a valued individual.”  Ethan Cohen, Slalom Consulting.

Solution: Actively seek feedback from employees across all demographics. Tailor support offerings based on this feedback to ensure employee needs are met effectively.

“If you're an employer who's conscious about budget and getting return on investment for the money you invest in supporting your employees, the best thing that you can do is ask your people how they are feeling, and then target your response using what you've heard.”  Carla Hoppe, Wealthbrite

Practical Steps for Employers

By applying these strategies, employers can create a more supportive workplace environment that addresses financial and mental health challenges effectively.

  1. Educational events, webinars and resources
  2. Normalise the conversation using data & storytelling
  3. Frequent and compassionate communication
  4. Tailor support using feedback
  5. Implement storytelling initiatives

Remove the stigma around mental health in the workplace by sharing employee journeys and experiences of mental health here

Raise awareness of the importance of addressing social mobility by sharing the stories of those from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds here

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