How employers can help financially stressed employees in these troubled times
These are difficult times, unprecedented in the lives of all but those old enough to remember the Second World War. With the Covid-19 pandemic still disrupting lives and economies, a worldwide squeeze on energy supplies has pushed the price of gas up to previously unseen levels.
The UK in particular is suffering because about 85% of homes have gas central heating and gas generates one-third of our electricity.
Now domestic energy bills are going up because the energy price cap is being raised. Energy firms increased bills by 54% when the new cap was introduced in April, at which point electricity and gas bills for a typical household went up by £693 a year.
In conjunction with rising food and petrol prices and an increase in national insurance contributions that also comes into force in April, some employees – particularly junior ones – may be feeling stressed as financial problems are added to other anxieties.
Out of our control?
The war in Ukraine has added an extra layer of stress to that which many people have been suffering for the past two years. Professor Barbara Sahakian, of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychiatry, told The Guardian that many people had been dealing with chronic stress since lockdowns began in March 2020, with threats from Covid-19 as well as the cost of living.
“Now there are threats to European and global security,” she said. “To some, it may seem that there is never any good news any more. This is not true, but it is important that people do not spend time doomscrolling [on social media], but instead show resilience and gain mastery over the situation.”
Given that many people spend a significant part of every week working, employers are in a unique position to help them do this.
Blurred lines between personal and professional
Indeed, one legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic is that the relationship between companies and their employees has evolved as the lines between personal and professional lives have become increasingly blurred.
For example, the government’s furlough scheme enabled companies to preserve jobs and pay furloughed employees a high proportion of their salary while safeguarding their health by enabling them to stay at home.
A side-effect of this, in many cases, was to give individuals a renewed appreciation of the value they derived from their job beyond the purely financial.
A company can be more than just an institution where people work; it can also be a source of support for its employees, who may feel anxious or vulnerable during these uncertain times.
They need all the support they can get and employers have the opportunity to provide it in a positive and reassuring manner.
That includes helping them with their financial wellbeing. Helping employees build lasting financial strength and stability means they are less likely to feel stressed and anxious at work, which will have positive knock-on effects for the company.
In partnership with Close Brothers
Close Brothers has been providing financial education services to employees of some of the UK's best known organisations for over 50 years.