By: Louise Woollard

As lockdown measures have changed over previous weeks, many of the nation’s workers have been embarking on a phased return to the workplace. Yet while the main conversations have revolved around the physical wellbeing of staff members, emotional and mental health are equally important and shouldn’t be overlooked. Louise Woollard – principal of financial advisory firm Louise Woollard Financial – explores how this very topic links in with financial education too…

The invisible side of the ‘new normal’
The ‘new normal’ – whether at work or home – is something which affects every single one of us. And when it comes to the workplace, it isn’t, and shouldn’t, solely refer to the more tangible things business owners can see.
As an employer, you are responsible for the health, safety and wellbeing of your employees – and this duty of care now matters more than ever as we, as a country, continue to adapt, be agile and carry on during the pandemic.
But the harsh reality is that beyond simply talking about needing to do more to support personnel’s mental health, a large number of organisations don’t do anything more. In other words, they don’t implement any further measures to integrate within their staff satisfaction and retention strategies.
And this is the hurdle where many companies fall at – especially when it comes to the financial side of the coin.

A time to ponder more
The 12-week lockdown period was a tough time for us all, and for several it evoked strong feelings of isolation – especially among the more vulnerable members of our society.

And while the ‘freed up’ time many people saved from not commuting may have been spent home-schooling, we all had a lot more minutes on our hands to think about things.

From job worries and furlough anxieties, to the future, money troubles, relationships and the meaning of life, this enlightenment-like period has caused many people to reassess their priorities and consider what works well – and not so well – in their current job.

This is often intrinsically linked with money.
In fact, research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personal Development revealed that one in three employees aged 25 to 34 report that money worries have affected their work, as well as one in four also stating that money worries have impacted their ability to do their job.
The ‘unseen’ stresses relating to money concerns, therefore, are very real and now is the perfect time for employers to recognise and address them – if they aren’t already.

A way to give back for the long term
For companies which believe their staff are their biggest asset, giving back – not just in pay packet terms – should be high on the agenda, especially as the marketplace becomes an increasingly competitive space and staff want more than just money to feel satisfied in their positions.

Yet the strange and likely truth around personal finances is that many people, instead of understanding how their in and outgoings work, just ‘go with the flow’ without being fully ‘in the know’.

And while this isn’t about being an expert in mortgages, investments or retirement savings, it is about being in control of spend and feeling more empowered by money, instead of confused or fearful – which often occurs when debts are involved.

Just like some business owners organise monthly team socials or annual IT and HR training – keeping them up to speed with all the latest advancements – the same should be done for money-related topics. Especially given that 19% of employees admit to having lost sleep due to worrying about their finances.

If these troubles are preventing workers from carrying out their job properly, this is absolutely an issue for employers to be aware of and try to help remedy – and this is where upskilling can truly help.
What really matters in the workplace?

When it comes to jobs, the younger generations in our society look for more than the wage-slip numbers. Nowadays, multiple factors are taken into account, such as flexible working, work-life balance, and company ethos – to name a few.

The latter is a big one, covering areas such as employee wellbeing, environmental pledges, and charitable commitments – all the things which make up the true ‘soul’ of a company. Faceless organisations are becoming increasingly a thing of the past and being vocal about who and what matters – in person and on social media – is how businesses attract the right talent fit for them.

So, what better way to keep the employees you value than to upskill and help to make them feel savvier – and happier – in their professional life for years to come?

The truth is that just because anyone over the age of 18 is classed as an ‘adult’, doesn’t automatically grant them with knowledge about everything in life – they have to be taught or work things out for themselves.
However, often the basics of money – budgeting, income management and buying a house – are areas people coast their way through and simply ‘hope for the best’.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Showing support by offering the option of financial education workshops is not only a way for employers to demonstrate that they care about staff wellbeing – equipping them with the skills and knowhow to manage money – but it’s also a way to feel valued as an employer, knowing your staff are happy both in and out of the office environment.