The events of the past two years have given many employers pause for thought on whether the package of support they offer fits the needs of their employees. Millions of people in employment have finely balanced finances and are vulnerable to shocks, never more so than with the cost-of-living crisis eroding their valuable disposable income.
Last year, more than half of Stepchange’s new clients or their partners were in work, which shows just how important it is for employers to ask themselves how employees will cope if their hours or overtime are cut, or how they will cope with rising costs. Employers should also be considering what they can meaningfully offer in terms of support with employees’ wellbeing to help them cope with changing circumstances that can so often lead to financial difficulty.
There is plenty of research showing that debt is bad for mental health. There is also plenty of data showing how much time in the workplace is lost to poor mental health, some of which we can safely assume is caused by debt worries.
That is why an up-to-date strategy for supporting employees’ mental, physical and financial wellbeing is going to be key to helping navigate the cost-of-living crisis. Ensuring one is in place for organisations for the coming year should be a priority.
What an effective wellbeing strategy looks like will differ depending upon an organisation. They can range from measures as simple as signposting to helpful places, such as free financial advice and mental health support, to those more complex like training up mental health first aiders or trialling an employee assistance programme through a healthcare provider. With these just the tip of the iceberg, it is well worth exploring what measures can be implemented.
Richard Lane is director of external affairs at Stepchange