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Work to live or live to work?


Financial health. Mental health. Workplace health.

Do you work to live or live to work? Regardless of your answer, the issue at the heart of this debate is pure and simple. Money.  True, we might work for love, passion, or status, to validate our existence or make us feel fulfilled. But ultimately, most of us work because we need to put a roof over our heads and fund a certain lifestyle. 

By Liz Willder | Director, Head of Financial Services | Corporate & Financial Communications


A workplace issue  
Transparency is very much a buzz word in reporting. But whether it’s a case of adhering to legislation or CSR pressure, transparent communication and/or behaviours shouldn’t be an exercise in public relations. In its rawest form it should be about fuelling progress and adding value.  

Great strides have been made to close the gender pay gap or propel the uptake of workplace pensions, but most companies remain a closed book when it comes to discussing money in the workplace. Salaries and pay rises are rarely disclosed. Invariably, teams talk more openly about Brexit, politics, religion or their latest dating antics than converse with one another on personal money related concerns. 

A growing problem
The DNA of Financial Wellbeing 2018, by Neyber, surveyed 30,000 employees and 1,000 employers across 25 industries in the UK, found that 63% of employees had been affected in some way by financial worries in 2018 (57% in 2017).

More than half of 18-44yr olds admitted that financial worries affect their behaviour at work and negatively impact performance. 6% even admit to taking time off work due to financial worries. 

We have already made strides in opening up about money in some areas of society.  It’s encouraging to see money related issues (previously resigned to the personal finance sections) now permeating mainstream media. Money focussed podcasts by Youtube stars top the iTunes charts, but also turn into book deals and nationwide tours. Instagram accounts charting a pathway back to the black attract significant followers. Challenger banks and consumer brands continue to attract the pay cheques of millennials and companies such as Lloyds Bank focus entire ad campaigns on financial mental health.

But what else can be done to tackle the issue in perhaps the most significant areas of our lives –where we spend the majority of our waking hours – the workplace. How can companies use their influence to destigmatize the matter of money and get employees to open up? 

Authenticity is key 
Can a company really expect its employees to behave well commercially if they have an overarching unhealthy relationship with money that is playing on their mind and sapping away at their energy? They can’t just leave these issues at the door. Equally, can a company legitimately encourage discussions on money if remuneration discrepancies are the elephant in the room?

Talking about money can change people’s lives for the better but companies need to find an authentic way to do so.

  • Take the time to understand the diversity of financial woes that exist across a workforce and the ways in which different groups respond to information and help.

  • Look for ways to implement a suitable learning and development scheme that empowers individuals and the workforce as a whole.

  • Reach out to partners to host money clinics – don’t just offer the chance to meet with a financial advisor to discuss the work place pension scheme. Instead consider how a programme of practical money surgeries on day to day finances (budgeting, paying off student debt) and life stage milestones (buying a property, investing for the first time, child benefits, saving for school fees) might empower employees.

  • Recruit ambassadors across every level to encourage peer to peer debate.

  • Signpost charities and helpful sources of information.

The pay off?
Investing in the financial wellbeing of employees not only leads to a healthier, happier, more productive and loyal workforce; it equips them with the confidence to manage their own (and the company’s) money and worry less about the bills waiting on their doormats at the end of the working day.  

Given workplace mental health issues cost the UK economy almost £35bn a year, opening up about money is surely an investment that can get Board approval.