Supporting your employees’ financial well-being can improve their lives and also help your bottom line.
Financial stress affects nearly all American workers. Some worry about crushing student loan and credit card debt; others fret over the cost of owning a home or starting a family. One lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic: Be ready for a financial storm. As employees return to work and business gears back up to production normalcy, now is a good time to talk to staffers about financial wellness.
Stress from finances impacts employers and staff members in many ways. A recent study from PwC revealed the following about financial stress:
- 28% of workers admit it negatively affects their health
- 22% say it affects their productivity at work
- 12% admit it causes them to miss work occasionally
Some estimates put the cost of reduced productivity to American businesses at half a trillion dollars every year. For business owners, helping workers improve financial wellness can show direct reductions in healthcare costs and absenteeism, as well as gains in productivity.
How employers can help
It begins with opening a dialog with staff members that you want to help with their financial well-being. Ask employees if they could use the help or would be interested in learning a few tips. You’ll likely see a lot of takers.
Lunch and Learn sessions
A lunch and learn program is a great way to get employees on the road to financial health. If you currently have a 401(k) plan in place, your plan representative may be available to talk to staffers about long- and short-term goals. They’ll provide detailed information on the benefits of planning for retirement — even for your youngest employees.
Employers can help, as well, whether they’re financially well-versed or not. Resources are available you can suggest to staffers: the federal government has a budget site that can help. The site offers advice on budgeting, saving, and planning for the future. In your sessions, you can offer suggestions and even guide employees to examine how they spend their money now, what they hope to achieve, and how to get there from here.
In your sessions, you can offer suggestions and even guide employees to examine how they spend their money now, what they hope to achieve, and how to get there from here.
Start the session with the basics: we can all use a little help with budgeting and planning for our financial future. Hand out a budget template and ask employees to fill it out at home. Once staff members determine what their fixed costs are per month — rent, utilities, etc. — they can better achieve their financial goals. Often creating a budget is an eye-opening experience that helps families plan. If you know what amount of disposable income you have monthly, for example, it’s easier to plan for things like dining out and entertainment that doesn’t put you in the red.
Start with the little things
It’s important to understand how the little things we do on a daily basis add up over the course of a week, month, or year. A quick drive-thru for coffee in the morning may be the way to start the day, but add up how much that costs per week. It’s probably a better idea to brew at home — and you might get to sleep a little later. Even buying soda or snacks from a vending machine costs more than bringing these items from home.
Buying lunch on a daily basis is another expense employees can cut down on. Ask them to consider reducing eating out once or twice a week and determine how the savings add up. You might be able to help; designate one day a week (or more) as a “bring your own lunch to work” day.
Employers may consider relaxing dress codes to help reduce the cost of dry cleaning services for their staffers. Even having a single day per week as a casual day can reduce cleaning costs by 20%.
Can you provide uniforms to staffers? Many organizations find branded polo shirts provided to staff help customers recognize who to go to for assistance, but they also allow workers to cut down on wardrobe costs. Remind staffers if they contribute to purchasing or cleaning uniforms, these costs may be tax deductible.
Work-at-home options are also a way business can help employees save on transportation, meals, and other costs.
Encourage carpooling in your company to save on transportation costs. You could set up a system of ridesharing that not only allows workers to reduce their carbon footprint, it might allow staffers who would otherwise not engage to develop a bond.
Work-at-home options are also a way business can help employees save on transportation, meals, and other costs. If you can offer the option either part- or full-time, you may be able to help.
Office celebrations are fun, but often put staffers under pressure to contribute cash for gifts for colleagues. While the sentiment is nice, the costs can be challenging. Encourage celebrations that only require a cake (paid for by the company, if possible) and don’t ask for donations.
If staff members rely on daycare for their children, consider working with a center near the company to arrange for employee discounts. Not only will staffers be in closer proximity to their children, employers may see reductions in absenteeism and tardiness. Work with the local care facility, which is often a small business in your community. If you can guarantee them a set amount of students, can they offer a discount to your staff? Some employers even contribute to childcare costs as a perk (which could be a deductible business expense) if employees use a center close to the company.
Direct deposit — with a little split
Most employers choose direct deposit for staff members: the ease of not having to create payroll checks is a convenience for business and staff. While employees generally prefer their deposit goes to a checking account, offer the option to deposit a small portion (as little as $5 per week) into a savings account. Some staffers will find as little as $260 per year can help with holiday gift giving; others will let it continue to grow.
Flexible spending accounts
Since monies deposited into FSA are tax deferred, staffers reduce their (and their company’s) tax burden for even more savings.
Flexible spending accounts help employees get into a budget frame of mind. Setting aside money for anticipated medical or caregiver expenses is a great way to plan for and take control of finances. Since monies deposited into FSA are tax deferred, staffers reduce their (and their company’s) tax burden for even more savings.
If you don’t already have one in place, one of the best ways employers can help staff achieve long-term financial goals is to start a 401(k) fund within the company. These retirement plans help in many ways: the amount employees set aside for their retirement is taken from their pay on a pre-tax basis, reducing their (and their employer’s) current tax burden. Money in the account increases over time as the funds accrue interest or make gains along with the stock market. For business, there are many tax advantages for offering these plans, as well as incentives to help get started.
Some employees are savers, others live paycheck to paycheck. For most Americans, budgeting and financial planning isn’t something learned from family members or in school. Employers can help by showing staff how to budget, how to make smart choices, and how to improve their financial well-being. The bonus — it can help your business’s bottom line, too.