Part two of our three-part series Culture of Health: From Wellness to Wellbeing
Let’s be honest. Financial issues are stressful. And your level of income has surprisingly little to do with the extent to which finances can disrupt your wellbeing.
Financial instability carries real consequences. Loss of sleep and any number of cascading health issues are just the beginning.
According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report, nearly one in four employees cite money-related stress as a distraction at work. At a Health Action Council Share & Compare workshop we hosted this past summer, Limeade cited findings that more than a third of HR professionals agree that employees have missed work due to a financial emergency.
Interactive Health, another of our workshop experts, presented the alarming fact that half of Americans have less than $1,000 on hand to pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with an unexpected illness or accident.
HOW EMPLOYERS CAN HELP THEIR EMPLOYEES
Any strong employee wellbeing program must include a financial stability program. Limeade offers a number of best practices for strengthening your comprehensive employee wellbeing strategy:
Money Matters: Bring in local or national experts to hold in-person or online workshops, seminars or one-on-one coaching. Make it a three-part series to ensure employees learn about all aspects of their finances, such as healthcare savings, managing credit and planning for retirement. Reward employee participation and encourage employees to attend.
Financial Planning: Equip employees with various tools to assist them in creating a financial plan – a crucial step towards the pursuit of financial wellness. Some tools include 401(k) or IRA savings calculators, learning modules, written materials and scenario planning. It’s important to remember that financial planning is ongoing rather than a single event. So reward employees who regularly engage in mapping out their financial future.
Monthly Savings: Challenge employees to automate their savings by putting away at least 10 percent of their income every month. While for some this might seem like a lot, and for others just a little, remind employees that putting aside money every month does add up and feels good. Have them name their savings account, like “Home Sweet Home” or “Trip to Paris,” to remind them why they’re stashing away cash. By incentivizing employees, putting money away each month will become a long term habit.
BUILDING AND LEVERAGING RESILIENCE
MeQuilibrium’s Share & Compare workshop presentation focused on the role of resilience in wellbeing. According to experts from its clinically validated resilience training program, building resilience to respond to the fear and anxiety associated with financial stress, for example, is key to taking control. Here are a few tips MeQuilibrium offers to help your employees build and leverage resilience:
Shine a light on your spending habits: You can’t change anything—whether it’s a buying habit or a stressful thought—unless you are aware of your patterns and their consequences. For a week, keep track of all the non-essential things you buy. Score each one on how rewarding it ended up being. What lives up to your expectations? What consistently fails? This exercise gives you the information to start to spend your hard-earned money on what is truly worth it to you.
Bring your beliefs to the surface: Our deepest beliefs about money often keep us from even talking about it. These beliefs tend to be what meQuilibrium’s Chief Science Officer Andrew Shatté calls an iceberg belief. The key here is to bring those iceberg beliefs into your conscious awareness, rather than push them farther down. Pay attention to the moments your emotions get riled up around money issues, because big emotional responses are one of the best clues to discovering an iceberg belief.
Manage your money thoughts with more calm: Shatté notes that a hallmark of resilience is impulse control, which can be in short supply if your fears and emotions around money are running wild. First trap the thought: What is causing me to reach for my wallet? What am I feeling? Then map it: Where is this stressful thought coming from? Finally, zap it: Acknowledge that whatever you’re about to buy likely isn’t going to solve the real problem. Put your wallet away, even just for a few hours. You can always go back for it later. Chances are, when the mood passes, so will the urge.
No employee – no matter what compensation level – wants to share that he or she is having financial issues. It’s an embarrassing thing to admit. So it’s all the more important that employers provide their employees with the information and tools to deal with this silent crisis.
Our final article in this series on the Culture of Health: From Wellness to Wellbeing will focus on the role nutrition plays in employee wellbeing.