Employees face many financial wellbeing barriers, according to a panel at the Delivering Financial Wellbeing in the Workplace: What Works? conference at King's College London. Here are some of the key challenges they raised:
Technology is not up to scratch
Gethin Nadin, author of A World of Good: Lessons from Around the World in Improving the Employee Experience, said that personal finance has not made proper use of the available technology.
“It’s depressing to think that technology so far has not aided us in being able to better manage our finances,” he said. “People do not need a guide to be able to use Instagram or Facebook; it’s so easy to use that you can pick it up without anyone showing you. So why isn’t it the same if you want to be able to check your pension?”
Nadin added that a lot of employees are time-poor, which is acting as a stressor for them when planning their finances.
“Stop having to feel you need to make long-term decisions about finances – it’s far more important to avoid impulsive spending. Employers can help with this. One organisation spoke to a group of young people who knew that they might be able to find a better deal with car insurance, or a better mobile phone contract, but part of the problem is that they’re so exhausted from work that staying put just feels easier,” he said.
“This company decided to give employees a day to sort out their accounts, their savings and their bills, and found it really made a huge difference to how in control people felt of their money.”
Mental health issues can lead to difficulties managing money
Brian Semple, head of external affairs at Money and Mental Health, shared the organisation’s research, which revealed the impact of poor mental health on employees’ abilities to manage their finances.
“Cognitive symptoms of some mental illnesses can mean that some people won’t have the focus or motivation to stay on top of finances, while some people with illnesses like bipolar might be more impulsive and spend more,” he said.
Semple added that it wasn’t always possible to tell whether a mental health issue was caused by debt or vice versa: “Employers need to really look at each individual who might be struggling, there’s really no one size fits all.”
Joe Gladstone, assistant professor of consumer behaviour at University College London, told the audience that they need to accept that (to an extent) humans are psychologically flawed when it comes to saving.
“If you think about it, it makes absolute sense that as human beings we’re extremely bad with money. There was a time in human history where we didn’t have to use tokens in exchange for things,” he explained.
“You would have thought we would have adapted to this by now but we haven’t. We are myopic creatures.”