By Darlette McCormick, AFC, CHC – The coronavirus has triggered global job losses 10 times higher than the 2008 global financial crisis. As the economic consequences of the pandemic settle in, Financial Wellness Education in the workplace is more important than ever. How heavy will job security and ongoing economic uncertainty weigh on employees minds? If a spouse has recently experienced a job loss or is reducing his or her work hours due to child care issues, will that be a distraction? What about the single mom who is now paying for an unexpected and unbudgeted nanny to assist with her child’s virtual school?
Employees are facing a number of stressors related to COVID-19, including financial ones. The more employers can do to help workers manage these stressors; the more attuned workers can be to their day-to-day job responsibilities. A financial wellness program is one way organizations can help employees address COVID-related financial obstacles.
A successful, workplace financial wellness program can accomplish two things: First, it promotes financial literacy education, the knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions about how to manage money. Basic personal finance instruction can help employees better understand how to set and prioritize financial goals.
Secondly, financial wellness programs can connect employees with resources designed to help them navigate their personal, financial situations. This can include avoiding foreclosure, managing debt, saving for a new home purchase, applying for college scholarships, or planning for retirement.
There are several ways to successfully support employee financial wellbeing:
On-demand financial education
On-demand financial education includes offering trainings or resources that employees can access at their convenience. Popular webinars address successful money management, building credit, creating a budget, and investing basics. Often, trainings can be localized to also include helpful links to government and nonprofit sites that offer social services resources, consumer protection information, etc.
Many employers offer employee wellbeing programs that include a financial wellbeing component. These programs typically provide employees access via telephone or video conference to financial counselors who are trained to provide professional, objective advice related to finances. At Workplace Options, financial counselors provide support, as well as helpful educational materials and resources, on a variety of topics, including preventing bankruptcy, budgeting, reviewing a credit report, reducing debt, and setting financial goals.
Eventually, employers will once again be able to offer financial wellness fairs and pop-up events to promote the importance of financial wellbeing. These events often include trusted, local community and business resources; credit counselors; housing counselors; and government agencies.
Automatic savings programs
In addition to financial education, automatic savings programs are another popular way employers seek to help employees develop long-term, money management behaviors. These savings can be used for emergencies, paying down debt, or other financial goals.
Often, in times of financial need, employees turn to low-quality, high-interest loans or borrow against their retirement. However, when employers offer a hardship fund, employees have access to money for specified, unexpected expenses that affect the basic needs of their families. Funds can be distributed as a grant or loan. Repayment of the loans is often set up as an automatic payroll deduction.
Prior to COVID-19, workplace financial wellness programs were considered to be a helpful way to support employee wellbeing while also decreasing absenteeism and presenteeism commonly associated with financial stress. However, in this season of COVID-19, with so many employees facing potential household income reductions, a financial wellness program can be a lifeline to a large percentage of the workforce now trying to make ends meet.
Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family, and personal needs to become healthier, happier, and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness, and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals, and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programs. To learn more visit www.workplaceoptions.com.