Employee mental health came under the spotlight during the pandemic as lockdowns, working from home and furlough turned millions of lives upside down. As Covid has passed a new pressure on employees has raised its head – the cost-of-living crisis and with it a growing recognition that financial wellbeing is itself a key component of employee mental health.
Good mental health is one of the four pillars of employee wellbeing, alongside physical, social and financial. But these pillars are closely interrelated and a weakness in one is likely to cause weakness in others. Today the largest threat to wellbeing is the cost-of living crisis. Few of today’s employees have experienced double-digit inflation during their working lives and the pressure of higher expenses is squeezing household budgets and forcing difficult choices from reducing spending on leisure, cutting back on retirement savings or postponing life plans such as buying a home.
The cost-of-living crisis creates pressures on all the other pillars of wellbeing, not least employees’ mental wellbeing.
The inter-relationship between these pillars can be clearly seen in our research report Inside Employee Minds research report . Based on a survey of more than 2,000 UK employees, the research found 12% of employees said that covering their monthly expenses was their biggest concern and 7% said their main worry was their mental and emotional health.
These stresses are manifested across the generations with financial worries top of the least for every age group. The only difference being that older cohorts worry less about monthly expenses and more about whether than can afford to retire.
18-24: Covering expenses, Mental health, Work-life balance.
25-34: Covering expenses, Mental health, Work-life balance.
35-44: Covering expenses, Work-life balance, Job security.
45-54: Covering expenses, Work-life balance, Physical health.
55-64: Ability to retire, Physical health, Work-life balance.
65+: Ability to retire, Physical health, Work-life balance
Poor employee mental health is a business issue
Mental health is a complex and multi-faceted issue, but finances and working life are deeply intertwined with our emotional wellbeing. Responsible employers increasingly recognise the importance of these issues to the wellbeing of their employees and of their business. This shows up most clearly in employee retention and our research found two in five employees are considering leaving their current job. Less immediately obvious, but nevertheless damaging to both employees and employer, is the erosion of job satisfaction and productivity caused by the stress and distraction of financial worries.
Solutions such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) play a valuable role in supporting employees suffering from poor mental health. But a comprehensive strategy will also include proactive and preventative elements, helping employees identify the root causes of their mental stress and providing them with the education and support to tackle them.
Do you know what issues your employees are struggling with and do you have the right support in place to help them?
A comprehensive strategy will include using employee benefits to offer value to employees, tools, including digital platforms, to help employees address their own stresses and anxieties and, of course, a culture that does not stigmatise mental health.
Analysing the causes of stress in a business, from workloads to processes, is a key step, but understanding employees as individuals is essential. Work is a significant aspect of employees’ lives, but their personal life and situation are equally important dimensions. All of us pass through various stages in our lives and each one produces new and different anxieties. Becoming a parent, becoming a carer for elderly relatives, buying a house, bereavement – these are challenges most of us will face at some point in our lives and the details of these challenges will be unique to each individual. But a common thread to all of these will be financial worries that may gnaw away at employees’ wellbeing and which in the wrong combination of circumstances can become overwhelming.
Providing employees with the knowledge and tools to tackle their financial worries - from taking out a mortgage, tackling debts, planning for retirement or simply managing their day to day expenses - is one of the key steps an employer can take to support good mental health.