Money stress is at the highest recorded level since 2015. In fact, the APA’s latest Stress in America survey found that 72% of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at least some time in the prior month.
This month, we held a panel discussion with Jim Dubina III, Manager II of Retirement & Finance Benefits at J.B. Hunt, Ellen Meza, Senior Director of Global Benefits, Wellbeing & Mobility at DocuSign, and Merraf Abel, MPH, LMFT, Licensed Therapist & Provider Lead at Spring Health.
Here are the key takeaways from the conversation, which include how to identify employees who are struggling with financial wellness, and the best ways to provide the support they need.
When money becomes a terrible secret
It’s difficult for people to talk about their finances. As a result, financial stress becomes a terrible secret that often gets worse and can prevent someone from addressing the root cause of the problem.
And if an employer doesn’t know whose financial needs aren’t being met, there’s only so much they can do to help.
Here are a few ways for managers to identify employees who are struggling with their financial wellbeing:
- Keep an open door policy—create a safe, supportive, non-judgemental space for employees to talk about their financial stress
- Talk about your own struggles to encourage employees to do the same
- Ask employees if they’re okay, and what they need to be financially well
- Give managers with materials and training to help them recognize signs of stress, anxiety, and depression Know how to have difficult conversations about money and provide the needed support
Ellen adds this advice: “At the end of your one-on-one with your employees, always ask, ‘Is there anything that I could be doing for you to make your job easier, to make your life easier, to help support you?’ This opens a huge door.”
Spot the signs of financial stress
If an employee is asking for additional compensation, because of rising inflation, that’s a red flag. Find out whether they’re wanting a promotion or a raise—or if they’re actually experiencing financial difficulties.
Pay closer attention if an employee is consistently leaving work early, having performance issues, is overly (and unusually) irritable or tired, or having trouble concentrating. These are indicators of anxiety and depression.
Be keenly aware of the baseline in your employees, and use it to spot sudden changes.
“As a manager, I know when something is ‘off’ with an employee,” says Merraf. “Perhaps a top performer is struggling, or they’re less motivated or excited to be at work or with the team.
“Take those signs and step forward. Talk to your employees about your own stress so they feel comfortable opening up to you. Create a safe space for them to tell you what’s going on. And remember, this can impact anyone.”
Support when compensation isn’t an option
Many companies don’t have the ability to give employees the raises they need to combat inflation.
If this is the case, look at what you can offer that:
- Eases some of the financial burden for your employees
- Shows that you’re investing in them holistically
- Uses your Wellness budget to provide programs for financial wellness, mental health, discounts, or perks that save employees money
Resources for improving financial wellbeing
Lastly, here are some resources that you can consider offering to your employees, or point them to if they’re already in place:
- If you offer a 401(k), encourage your employees to utilize the platform’s financial and retirement planning tools
- Offer financial wellness services through robust, personalized platforms like Northstar and Origin
- Offer a comprehensive mental health solution to help employees better manage their financial stress and anxiety
- Recommend checking 401(k)’s quarterly or semi-annually—looking at this daily creates stress, because they can fluctuate so much
Jim says, “Use the tools and resources your company has to offer, and if they don’t offer any, there are a lot of free resources out there. Research is a very big key for employers to help their employees reach financial wellness.”
Prioritize your own mental health
As a manager, you’re experiencing inflation and rising gas prices along with everyone else. Be sure to look inward to identify your own money stress, use the available resources yourself, and talk about it.
This is a highly effective way to become a role model, start these conversations with your employees, and show them you’re someone they can turn to.
Watch the webinar on demand to learn more about how to help your teams reduce financial stress and inflation anxiety.