Companies helping employees with the cost-of-living crisis can boost mental health and financial wellbeing in five important ways, says Nicola Jagielski.
Despite good news for many in the budget, the cost-of-living crisis continues to cast gloom over employee finances. According to the ONS, prices have again risen faster than pay for the fifteenth month in a row. Effectively subjecting employees to another pay cut.
One in five people (22%) are now using more credit and half of those who are behind on bills are experiencing high anxiety. Our own data shows a 96% increase in calls regarding financial worries to our employee helplines, in the past year alone.
Even though the problem is widespread, financial worries remain the most stigmatised wellbeing issue at work. Less than one in two people (47%) feel comfortable discussing financial wellbeing with their manager.
Employers must therefore take a proactive approach. Our clinical director, Nicola Jagielski, explains how to help employees with the cost of living. With five tips ranging from destigmatising money worries to offering mental health support.
GET THE FIVE TIPS
1. Destigmatise money worries
Basic needs, such as food and heating, have now become luxuries, forcing employees to change behaviour. Some are turning off heating and having cold showers. Others are bringing children into their bed to keep them warm or using a food bank for the first time. Meaning the impact of the cost of living crisis on mental health is also not to be underestimated.
With money worries remaining the most stigmatised wellbeing issue at work, it’s easy for people to think no one else is struggling as much. Even though seemingly well-off employees might also be struggling to stick to a budget for the first time.
Help employees with the cost of living by making employees feel safe to be more open. Encourage them to share cost-saving tips with each other. If someone mentions they bought second-hand clothes for the first time, and they were okay, it will encourage others to do this. As well as communicating the message that we’re all in this together, to boost companionship and emotional resilience.
2. Help employees take control
It’s very easy for employees to become engrossed with little things, like turning light switches off. This provides a sense of control to keep feelings of anxiety at bay. However, if they are spending more than they earn unknowingly, they need to take proper control of their finances.
This can be intimidating, so help employees with the cost of living by providing access to expert financial support. This could be a workshop on how to set a budget. Or access to a financial helpline for support on how to consolidate debts to reduce interest payments.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) such as the service provided by PAM Wellbeing also have welfare advisors to help employees understand and claim all the state benefits they’re entitled to. This is important as millions of people in work don’t realise they could be hundreds of pounds better off. If you offer this sort of benefit, make sure employees know it exists. Or direct them towards Citizens Advice.
3. Get managers to provide support
Managers are ideally placed to help employees with the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on mental health. Every person’s situation is unique, and employees will be affected at different times and in different ways. If someone seems out of sorts, it’s important their manager notices and asks if they are okay?
As the employee opens up, managers need to remember that they’re not a counsellor or financial advisor. Their role isn’t to try and advise the employee. It is to listen and make them feel heard so they can support them in work.
Perhaps the employee had to cancel their child’s afterschool club. In which case maybe the manager can allow them to work more flexibly for a time while they sort something else out. The employee no longer feels alone in their problem, as their manager listened and helped.
4. Offer mental health support
Every person’s situation is unique to them. The negative part of our brain loves going into worst case scenarios, so we need to proactively bring it back to the here and now. So it’s important to think about this when looking at how to support employees with the cost of living crisis.
Someone might be catastrophising and constantly worrying that they might lose their partner or home due to the cost of living. This will be causing them to experience the same stress as if that’s actually happening. This can cause them to become distracted and anxious at work. Or give rise to negative behaviours, such as using alcohol to numb their feelings.
Providing them with access to counselling, such as that provided by an EAP, can help them to better manage their anxiety. This will give them back control of their thoughts, feelings and behaviours and provide coping strategies, so they can live in the moment. This has just become even more affordable, with £400m allocated to subsidise occupational health costs to support people with their mental health.
5. Encourage people to have fun
Life has become very grey for many individuals. They have no disposable income to do the things that used to give them joy. This means their life has been reduced to work and chores, making them feel very low.
During the pandemic employers were very good at keeping people’s spirits high, by creating opportunities for them to stay connected. Whether that was a virtual canteen for people to come together for lunch or coffee, or an after work zoom quiz.
Even though social restrictions have lifted, many people can’t afford to socialise right now. Employers can help by making sure employees still have positive opportunities for social interaction. Something as simple as a regular team walk, or after work activity can give them something to look forward to. Plus make everyone feel less isolated to reduce the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on mental health.
How to help employees with the cost-of-living: services
PAM Wellbeing offers several financial wellbeing services to help employees and managers navigate the cost-of-living crisis. Including:
- Employee Assistance Programme, featuring counselling and debt helplines
- Specialist welfare and benefits support, also accessible via the EAP
- Financial wellbeing webinars and workshops for employees
- Mental health training for managers to have mental health conversations
- Face-to-face counselling and CBT training for employees in need of extra support
- Financial wellbeing guides and articles featured in the PAM Assist Wellbeing App
Why not set up a free consultation to discuss your needs? Just call 01925 596244 or email email@example.com.