Workplace stress is a term that’s often associated with the pressures of the job and work duties, such as demanding deadlines and an overflowing, or ever growing, workload. Managing of all that day in, day out, can cause stress itself, but add to that the fact that we all have busy lives outside work with their own sets of issues, the pressures we face can mount up. Financial worries which are brought into work from home is one of the leading causes of lower productivity levels, according to Kevin Rogers – CEO of health cash plan provider, Paycare – who shares insight to how employers (and their teams) can take a more holistic approach to workplace wellbeing.

“There is a growing awareness amongst employers that they need to take even more steps to ensure their teams’ health and wellbeing is protected, and that they perform to their highest levels when they’re at work. However, while the list of things for employers to be mindful of can seem like it’s growing, there is one fundamental thing they need to remember.

Protecting your staff’s mental health isn’t about qualifying to be therapists or psychologists, or about becoming a counsellor. It’s instead about being mindful that we all are humans, and issues – including mental and physical – will impact us all at some stage in our lives.

A study by Forths in January 2018 (1) among 2,000 participants showed that the biggest cause of stress is money, followed by work, health concerns, and failure to get enough sleep. It also found that 54% of people who are stressed are also concerned about its impact on their physical health.

In addition, Neyber’s DNA of Financial Wellbeing 2018 found that CEOs are ‘largely aware that financial pressures impact employee behaviour, performance and relationships at work’ and that financial stress costs employers £120.7bn each year (2). In its 2017 report, the largest proportion of respondents, 33% said financial matters were their biggest worry, followed by 29% who said health, and 28% who said work/life balance.

As a nation, people are borrowing more and saving less, and living costs are rising yet wages are remaining stagnant or not growing at the same rate. So while increase in pay and bonuses are one of the ways employers can alleviate (albeit temporarily) financial stress amongst their teams, it’s by far not the most effective way to protect their emotional health, and it’s not always a commercially viable option.

As such, employers need to find alternative ways to look after the physical, financial and mental health of their team, which they not only recognise and retain existing talent within their businesses, but continue to attract new skills.

As employers, we can’t prevent them bringing personal worries – such as financial health – into the workplace, but we can support them to minimise the impact on their own health and that of the organisation.

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) are one such tool that are invaluable for any organisation, regardless of the type of industry they operate in, the type of employees they have, or the demands of the job. Having been around since the 1970s, EAPs are essentially an advice and guidance line which enables employees to confidentially talk to a specialist about any worries or problems they’re facing – whether they’re work-related or not.

These are hugely cost-effective to implement, are available to the entire workforce, and can provide returns on investment in terms of reducing worries amongst staff, and subsequently enhancing their overall mood, motivation and productivity at work.

They can be used by people for all areas of their life, not just financially-related, to address concerns they may have about their physical and mental health and wellbeing, bereavement and grief from losing a loved one, family and relationship matters, and workplace-related issues.

Another option is exploring opportunities to collaborate with ethical Credit Unions, who can assist your team in saving money and managing their funds more effectively, with complete safety. While it may not be for every organisation, working with companies committed to ethical practices and who want to help individuals benefit from better financial health is yet another route you can take.

Stress can be both good and bad. The bad type of stress is when it actually interferes with and impacts our ability to live normally day-to-day. And, it can spread, with stress caused by one area of our lives often, if unmanaged, going on to impact other areas – for example, financial stress can impact personal relationships which, in turn can impact our eating and exercising habits, our focus and our happiness.

Ultimately, financial worries can cause stress, which – if left to develop – can present itself as a mental health illness such as anxiety, eating disorders, or depression. Signs that employers can look out for include poor concentration levels, distraction and procrastination, discouragement, and a lack of interest in matters they would usually be engaged with.

And it’s not just mental health that stress can impact. Stress, whether caused by financial worries or otherwise, can also cause or worsen physical ailments too, including insomnia, high blood pressure, substance abuse, weight gain or loss, and diseases. With the magnitude of the repercussions from financial stress, it’s clear to see that employers genuinely have an interest to take the issue seriously and to support their teams to feel more supported, in control, and able to manage their money.

There are many options and services available to implement a comprehensive employee wellbeing strategy within the workplace, that’s not only cost-effective to introduce, but will provide huge return on investment in terms of lower employee sickness and presenteeism levels, increased motivation and productivity, and essentially, profitability for the organisation.

Investing in working with people who are specialists and experts in these areas, and implementing support systems for your staff through work is great for not just protecting your team’s health, but helping them to feel more supported as a whole.

As a health cash plan provider, Paycare works by providing cashback to our policyholders for everyday healthcare costs including optical, dental, physiotherapy and professional therapies, as well as Employee Assistance Programmes, GP 24/7 (an app enabling staff to book and speak to a qualified and practicing GP) and Paycare Perks.

Our service, Paycare Perks, is a way for employers to support their staff financially, with discounts available to save money on everyday purchases such as car insurance, the weekly shop, and family holidays. On average, during 2017/18, our policyholders could have saved £490.88 via Paycare Perks based on their estimated annual spend across key areas such as grocery, utilities, entertainment and holidays. This is based on the information users enter into the savings calculator, which works out the estimated total savings they could have made.

All of this support goes well above and beyond the standard health cash plan provider because we truly understand the importance and value of providing our policyholders with the most holistic approach to ensure they, their employees, and their own organisations benefit from optimum health and wellbeing across the board.”

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