The financial wellbeing of staff must move up the agenda of policy makers and employers if the UK is to improve its productivity, according to Chris Pond, chairman at financial assistance charity The Caxton Foundation.
Speaking at an event to launch the Social Market Foundation and Neyber's Working Well research, Pond reported that employees are “literally on the edge” when it comes to money worries, and that this is seriously impacting their ability to concentrate at work.
“In these circumstances your focus is not going to be on the job in hand,” said Pond, who is also vice-chair of the Financial Inclusion Commission. “It’s going to be on ‘what’s going to greet me when I get home tonight? Will it be an envelope demanding money I can’t afford to pay?’”
Working Well found that a quarter (25%) of employees have lost sleep over money worries, with one in eight (13%) saying such concerns have affected their ability to concentrate at work.
Additionally, one in 20 (6%) workers has missed work in the last year because of money worries. The report also revealed that 34% achieve less than they would like to at work as a result of poor mental health, and a third (33%) have carried out their jobs less carefully than usual because of mental health issues.
The report suggested employers should take the lead here, through measures such as auto-enrolment into income protection policies, and workplace saving and credit schemes. Pond said that while people may have lost trust in the banks they have “not lost trust in their employer". By providing access to credit organisations can “do a huge amount to reduce stress and improve productivity as a nation,” he explained.
Also speaking at the event, chief medical officer for BT Group Paul Litchfield described this approach as “enlightened self interest". He said employers need to take a more holistic approach to wellbeing. “We tend to say ‘wellbeing’ and hear ‘health’; and indeed we tend to hear ‘healthcare’ rather than ‘health'. You have to pay attention to all of them if you want to drive up wellbeing.”
He added that by far the most common enquiry to BT’s employee assistance programme was regarding financial advice.