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Supporting employees’ financial wellbeing in challenging times

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As an employer, you may have noticed that some of your team members have been unusually tense, anxious, distracted, or unwell in recent months. And while personal challenges or day-to-day professional responsibilities can contribute to those feelings, they’re not the only culprits.

Inflation may be an especially significant source of stress. According to TELUS Health’s March 2023 Mental Health Index report, 45 per cent of workers have felt overwhelmed by debt, and of this group, 61 per cent have not sought financial advice or coaching. To compound matters, 26 per cent of workers in Canada are unsure if they will be financially comfortable in the future.

The solution isn’t to try and pay everyone more, which isn’t feasible for many organizations. Instead, employers could offer (and encourage the use of) resources for better financial planning and management, as well as support their physical wellness, mental health, and work-life balance. All of these pieces are connected in important and impactful ways.

Financial wellbeing is connected to mental wellbeing.

Financial wellbeing isn’t synonymous with wealth. For example, you can have a high income but a low sense of security and stability, or a modest income with your savings and spending in balance. The Government of Canada defines financial wellbeing as “the extent to which you can comfortably meet all of your current financial commitments and needs while also having the financial resilience to continue doing so in the future.”

And the fact is, financial wellbeing is connected to good overall physical and mental wellbeing. When people are feeling worried about their money, it can cause stress. And when people are stressed, they may be more vulnerable to illness.

This should matter to employers. Research released by Ceridian in collaboration with the Financial Wellness Lab of Canada found that one in six employees faces more financial stress today than last year. Furthermore, 82 per cent of employees across Canada and the US spend at least some of their time at work focused on their money worries, and this has led to a stark decline in productivity.

The power of the employee assistance program.

How serious is this productivity slump? According to Ceridian’s 2022 study, it equates to an estimated annual loss of $50 billion (USD) in productivity in Canada. That number skyrockets to a staggering $664 billion (USD) when combining Canada and the US.

Some of the power rests with employers to provide the tools, services, strategies, and flexibility employees need to improve their sense of financial wellbeing. And it can be achieved with a robust employee assistance program (EAP).

Here are five examples of how an EAP can help boost financial wellbeing and other measures of employee health and wellbeing.

1. Counseling to improve mental health outcomes.

One of the biggest benefits of an EAP is the ability for employees to access mental health professionals without relying on a formal referral. Because of the link between financial, emotional, and mental wellness, access to support is arguably more important now than ever before.

Canadians who lack emergency savings tend to have lower mental health scores — and in today’s financial turbulence, only 61 per cent of Canadians have two months of emergency savings, a figure that has been declining since January. Having access to a counselor to provide coaching and advice can help people put matters in perspective.

2. Resources to help people balance their lives and their budgets.

According to TELUS Health’s Financial Wellbeing Index, Canadians who have below-average financial wellbeing scores also believe they would benefit from access to further financial education — but 47 per cent of Canadians aren’t sure how to choose a financial planner.

With some EAPs, care navigators can connect employees to services beyond mental health, including financial planning and legal advice. Additionally, an EAP can help them obtain the expert advice and peace of mind they need to ease their anxieties and support a better work-life balance.

3. A holistic approach to prioritizing health and wellbeing.

Today’s employees aren’t solely concerned with their salaries: a sustainable work-life balance and flexible initiatives often take priority. According to one survey in Canada, 73 per cent of younger employees would accept a job offer with a better benefits plan than one that paid more, but had a lesser benefits plan.

Along with supporting an employee’s mental, emotional, and financial wellness, an EAP can also make a difference in caring for their physical health by connecting them to primary care, virtually.

4. Advice and tools for fostering positive, long-lasting habits.

An EAP can help employees develop better holistic health strategies. But in some instances, people need help forming the habits that create permanent change. The TELUS Health EAP provides resources to help people continuously educate and motivate themselves.

5. Providing a helping hand to family members and caregivers.

Caring for children or elders can be exhausting no matter what role a person plays professionally. For some, it may contribute to burnout. For others, it may force them to work fewer hours so they can be there for their dependents.

An EAP can help with this. Family support service professionals can help find care services, while mental health specialists can talk through the challenges associated with caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue.

With better benefits, employers can champion change.

Workplace productivity, physical and mental health, and financial wellbeing are often connected. Through awareness of the challenges their employees are facing, and by providing resources that are easily accessible, employers can help reduce stress and turnover, which may result in better results for their teams and their organizations.