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Is financial stress taking its toll on organisational productivity?

Today is the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

While it is primarily focussed on preventing workplace accidents, it’s worth reflecting on how the concept of workplace health and safety has transformed over the years to include wellbeing. And why not? It makes good business sense; good health and wellbeing programmes can help drive employee engagement and increase organisational performance.

It would be fair to say Covid-19 has strained everyone’s mental wellbeing. Prolonged volatility and uncertainty, mixed with complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), is taking a toll. And just when we think we’ve got Omicron almost beaten, inflation and the cost of living is starting to bite, bringing with it additional stress for a huge number of Kiwis. Many New Zealanders live pay cheque to pay cheque, and 40 per cent have less than $1000 in savings.

With such small reserves to call on, it’s no wonder that financial stress from rising petrol costs, increased interest rates or rents, and food price inflation is on the rise, and spilling over into the workplace. A recent survey reported that nearly two thirds of New Zealand employees are experiencing financial stress and that it is starting to affect them at work.

A recent survey reported that nearly two thirds of New Zealand employees are experiencing financial stress and that it is starting to affect them at work.

Financial stress is often unseen and usually not spoken about in the workplace. Yet it can have far-reaching effects on people. Impacts include difficulty focussing, loss of motivation, and drop in productivity, as well as increased flight risk from people seeking higher pay, or workers looking for additional or part-time work.

People bring their whole self to work, problems and all. And as leaders we need to be more aware.  A recent media article reported a huge blind spot gap between employers and their workers on the matter of financial stress.

How will you know if someone is suffering from financial stress? You might need to look closely. This kind of stress can present as increased absenteeism, increased churn, deteriorating mental wellbeing, insomnia, and physical ill health.

And because personal finances are personal, it might be difficult to get people to open up; that’s where a discreet survey, with anonymised results delivering insights without embarrassment could be useful.

It has been estimated that more than 80 per cent of workers want guidance on financial issues. Perhaps this is an issue for HR leaders to ponder.  What kind of support could you provide that would make a difference? You won’t know unless you ask.  You’re stronger when you listen.



Date: 28th April 2022
Category: Support
Chris O’Reilly
Chris O’Reilly
Chris co-founded AskYourTeam as a way to make it easier for leaders to ask their teams the most important (and the least-asked) question in business: “How can I help you do your job better?”
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