Even before the pandemic began, many Australian workers were doing it tough financially. Wage growth had slowed, the cost of living and personal debt levels had risen and the housing market had fallen in some states.
Money worries not only cause workers to lose sleep at night, they can also cause a drop in productivity at work. The financial pinch had become so widespread that we extended our Employment Assistance Program to include access to a financial coach to help workers deal with their financial difficulties.
Who is Impacted by Financial Stress?
Many believe it’s only those in lower socio-economic groups that suffer financial pain, but no one is immune. Financial stress impacts 40% of employees some time in their life and lasts on average 6.4 years. In relatively good financial times, 2.44 million Australian workers suffer financial stress, but the economic pain caused by the pandemic has no doubt pushed that number higher.
How We Can Improve Financial Wellness
By improving a worker’s financial wellness, their employer enjoys reduced absenteeism and presenteeism. They have a happier employee who is more engaged with their work and colleagues.
Making financial counselling available through our EAP means employees can access immediate financial coaching help. It’s important that counselling is available quickly because the longer the financial stress goes on, the deeper the problem and the more stress they suffer.
When someone is suffering from financial stress, their judgement is often clouded. They might not know where to start and often take no action because it’s too painful. Speaking to a financial coach can help someone take the first steps in working through their financial problems.
A person may need some help preparing a plan on how to deal with their finances. Knowing which organisations to call and what to discuss can be a good starting point. Some people are unsure of how much they owe and to which organisation.
As part of the PeopleSense by Altius wellbeing packages, a financial consultant can:
Assess a client’s current financial situation;
Build knowledge and understanding of financial matters; and
Provide a money management plan and guidance on home budgeting matters.
Very few Australians are taught personal finance at school. Yet it’s a lifelong skill we’re expected to have gained by our 18th birthday to help protect us from financial pain later in life. It’s never too late to improve financial wellness and enjoy the benefits.
Impact of Financial Stress on Work Life
While financial problems are personal, it doesn’t take long for them to overlap into work life. When an employee is suffering from financial difficulties at work, they are often less productive. They can’t focus fully on work when they’re thinking about the overdue bills or the next creditor call they will receive.
Employees in a poor financial situation take 2.4 days of sick leave each year because of the stress it causes. All of this poor productivity from financial stress is costing Australian industry $33 billion.
Impact of Financial Stress on Personal Lives
Financial stress is the main reason couples separate. Break ups and reduced time spent with children causes more stress and depression. The breakdown in relationships often increases financial difficulties, making it a vicious circle.
Financial problems are also a leading cause of substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide in Australia. What starts out as being behind in the bills can spiral into much bigger problems.
Financial stress can be so great that it can affect not only mental wellbeing but also physical health. Ongoing high levels of stress contribute to illness and chronic disease.
If you are an employee who would like to know whether financial support is available in your EAP offering, or you represent an organisation who would like to enquire about including the service for your employees, call PeopleSense by Altius on 1300 307 912 or contact us online.