Think about the last time you were truly stressed out about something. The chances are very good it was related to money – bills, credit cards, upcoming payments on a mortgage, and so on and so forth. Everyone experiences money trouble in their lives every now and again, but in these days of economic uncertainty, the situation is becoming, unfortunately, more commonplace.

Whatever your personal financial situation, everyone experiences money woes sometimes due to things like overdue bills, unplanned expenses, or major purchases. Above and beyond simply affecting your pocketbook, however, in recent years studies have begun to show that this strain has been impacting other areas of people’s lives as well – chiefly, this sort of undue stress and extra burden has been proven to cause health issues as well as reduced productivity at work.

Economic uncertainty can affect the quality of the work being performed and the volume of tracked deliverables completed on a near-daily basis. A recent report from PWC shows that 25% of all employees admit that stress due to financial issues has been a distraction while on the job, with a further 18% revealing it has started to affect their ability to prioritize tasks and stay focused on what needs to be done immediately. These distractions can add up, creating unnecessary overhead, missed deadlines, and an overall decline in productivity.

Luckily, a solution to many of these underlying issues has been made available to many workers across the country. To help combat this stress and maintain a healthier attitude for these workers, an increasing number of businesses of all sizes have begun to offer a financial wellness program. As described by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), financial wellness programs are educational programs designed by an external party (often an organization with experience in the world of personal finances) with the intent to “educate employees about overcoming personal finance challenge”, often by offering training and educational material on such topics as debt reduction, saving, planning for future financial needs, and better management of healthcare-related savings.

Financial Wellness Programs are a reliable, low-cost, and high-impact solution to mitigate the loss of employee productivity (as well as the increase of overall stress) in the office due to financial concerns and credit issues, and employers are increasingly interested in ways to provide further financial awareness to their staff. There are many options, some more involved than others. An article by Forbes mentions that 82% of employers surveyed plan on offering the “low-hanging fruit” type of program, typically an in-person seminar (or a “lunch-n-learn” program) that offers a broad explanation of many financial planning strategies. Programs like this are a good fit for smaller companies that don’t have the needs (or resources) to offer a more in-depth long-term strategy for their employees, or for anyone looking to “test the waters” and see how successful this program could be.

Bigger, more long-term education and counseling programs for improving financial awareness and keeping your staff as stress-free are available depending on the benefits you offer your team members, as well. Market Strategies recently discovered that a larger number of plan sponsors (a party in charge of setting up a healthcare or retirement plan, often the company or employer themselves) have begun offering financial wellness programs in their standard benefit plans; 21% of sponsors offer one in 2018 as opposed to a mere 16% in 2017. These programs include more comprehensive lessons including retirement planning assistance, deeper educational platforms (including interactive solutions such as websites), and overall cash flow management.

With all these options for financial counseling in front of you and easily available to your employees, you may still be asking yourself the big question: should your business offer financial wellness programs? That’s going to depend on a lot of factors, but there are a few tell-tale signs that any workplace or any employee can encounter that may indicate the need for financial wellness training. These signs can include:

  • An increase in sick days: In extreme cases, stress related to financial issues can manifest itself in physical symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, restlessness/sleepless nights, and the like. These physical symptoms can then begin affecting them at work by negatively impacting their performance and/or leading to a rise in absenteeism and tardiness, among other punctuality issues. If your employees are overall taking more sick days than usual, the culprit may be money-related stresses.
  • Issues with productivity: Does a portion of your staff seem less productive than normal? Are things taking longer to get done than usual, or are more daily tasks slipping through the cracks? Keep an eye on your workers to see if more due dates are being missed and more tasks are getting left behind – these could be samples of stress from outside the office.
  • General carelessness: If your employees’ minds are fixated on external financial difficulties, they may not be able to focus as well on what’s in front of them. Even if productivity hasn’t been affected, if you’re seeing a lot more workplace forgetfulness – accidents, incomplete tasks, lights left on – it may be a sign that your workers’ attention is being pulled elsewhere.

If any of this is starting to sound a little familiar, it could be a sign of external stresses beginning to impact your staff.

Luckily, the solutions aren’t difficult to find. If you feel like your office needs a little financial wellness training, a potential source can be close at hand. For example, you may be able to coordinate with your on-site plan sponsor to review your benefits packages and see if they offer seminars on retirement planning and financial wellness. Otherwise, you have plenty of options for seeking help elsewhere, either online or through local financial institutions – many credit unions, for example, offer financial planning workshops on a per-visit basis.

Above all else, helping your employees stay financially healthy just involves a little vigilance on your part when it comes to your employees’ performance and an open mind to help them find a solution. It could be easier than you think.

Timothy Allen

Timothy Allen is a freelance writer based in Michigan who alternates his time between writing about 'fun' stuff like video games and movies and the more grown-up world of small businesses, including financial issues, HR planning, and more.