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How to have a happy workforce: improving your finances generally improves your wellbeing

‘I got a letter in the post the other day. It said, ‘Do Not Bend’. I thought, how am I supposed to pick it up?’

As a chap of a certain age, I can fully relate to the trepidation we sometimes feel when we put pressure on our backs. Yes, I do all the stretching that my osteopath told me to do, and yes, I have worked on my core… However, I still think twice before shifting a box in my garage, moving a chest of drawers, or pulling up weeds in the garden (yes, watch that one – that’s where it all started in 2001). So, it made me consider how a long-term back injury would affect my overall wellbeing?

There are three recognised core elements to wellbeing:

  1. Physical – from a bad back, to a gout attack (tick both in my case)
  2. Mental – from the stresses of daily life, to the full-on debilitating deep depression that afflicts so many (and it is now totally ok to admit that there are times in life when emotional and mental stress affect us – another tick for me having had a very tricky 2014)
  3. Financial – from the worry of paying the big bills, to struggling to put food on the table (tick again – and yes, sometimes I don’t pay off my credit card in full)

As employers, if you want a happy and healthy workforce, it’s a good idea to ensure that your staff have access to help if they are struggling in any of these three areas. It’s also a valuable idea to be proactive, to prevent your employees having problems, so you don’t have to deal with the repercussions. In my experience however, for many companies the strategy often looks a bit like this:

  • Physical – that’s why we have private medical insurance and a cash plan
  • Mental – that’s why we have an employee assistance programme
  • Financial – hmm, we know we probably should be doing this, but…

Today, there’s a significant level of research and multiple expert reports, proving the link between the three core elements of wellbeing and how they interrelate. Logically, it makes lots of sense as well; for example:

  • My bad back makes it too painful to drive, or to sit for long periods of time, so I can’t get to work very easily, or do a full day’s work. I’m now on sick leave and a lower income.
  • As a result of my reduced pay, we’re struggling to make ends meet, which is making me increasingly stressed.
  • I’m now experiencing a bout of depression, as I’m unable to work or support my family. This is making it even harder to resolve my back issues and get back to work.

So, if you’re an employer that can only tick boxes 1 and 2 (i.e. only have a strategy in place for helping with physical and mental issues), how can you help your employees take care of their finances? Answer: how about beginning with providing some financial wellbeing workshops?

I often run courses on how to start a healthy financial journey, but much of it is common sense (to me perhaps), and the drive to act must come from within each individual. To employees, I suggest some of the following basic actions:

  1. Fully and honestly record how you spend your money – make a list
  2. Identify the common items as ‘want’ or ‘need’ – a big slug of honesty required here too
  3. Get a credit score – not knowing yours is not acceptable any more
  4. Cancel a few direct debits from the ‘want’ list – it is hugely therapeutic
  5. Shop around – it is astounding the number of people who just use British Gas for energy because it says ‘British’, when switching deals saves a worthwhile amount of money. Play hardball with other key providers too, such as your mobile phone, broadband, TV, roadside assistance suppliers
  6. Make a budget and stick to it – also hugely empowering when you realise you can

Getting these things right can genuinely help improve an employee’s wider sense of wellbeing, as they feel empowered by taking control of their finances. As we’ve already discussed, having a positive mental attitude makes a huge difference in all sorts of aspects of your life.

There’s no time like the present for all of us to start making improvements in our lives. If you can’t tick the ‘financial’ box for strategies to help employees, make a start too!

This article was first published with REBA on 14 November 2017.

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