Financial health is so often overlooked by employers, yet is a clear and present danger to other aspects of employee wellbeing.
I often advise employers to think of employee wellbeing as an equilateral triangle, with each side of that shape representing a different aspect of workforce good health. Those different sides represent:
- Physical wellbeing
- Mental wellbeing
- Financial wellbeing
A weakness in any one side of that triangle can lead to problems in the other two. For instance, a physical illness or injury can lead to a reduction in earnings and financial wellness, and poor financial health is likely to increase stress which in turn might lead to a decline in mental wellbeing also.
It follows that employers should aim to support all three sides of the employee wellbeing triangle equally to keep their workforce well, fit, and (importantly) productive in these difficult times.
This is why the latest findings from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Winter Survey should be of genuine concern to employers and their Human Resources (HR) experts in particular.
The survey of UK adults in the period 18 – 29 January 2023 found that:
- Around 1 in 11 (9%) adults reported they had often or sometimes run out of food and could not afford to buy more in the past month.
- Around 1 in 8 (13%) reported they had cut down meal size or skipped meals in the past month because there was not enough money for food.
- 21% of those adults in (2) above reported they had done so on more than 14 days in the month.
- Around 2 in 10 adults reported that they were occasionally, hardly ever, or never, able to keep comfortably warm in the past two weeks.
These are incredibly stark findings, and show how poor financial health has the potential to lead to poor physical health too. Add to this the additional finding that more than a third (34%) agreed that increases in the cost of living had negatively affected their mental health and the potential damage done to all three sides of the employee wellbeing triangle by the cost-of-living crisis should be evident to all HR experts.
And it is worth remembering that these findings arise not from a charity, left-wing think tank, or politically motivated grouping. Instead, they are supplied by the ONS, the UK’s (and the government’s) independent producer of official statistics.
I would like to think that the case for supporting all three sides of the triangle is made, and I would strongly encourage HR professionals to urgently review their benefits offering to ensure that practical and accessible support is available for physical, mental, and financial wellbeing issues.