Part I-COVID-19 and the Changing Relationship Between Employers and Employees.
By Christian Mango, AIFA, President, Financial Fitness for Life
As employers respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic, a critical component will be planning for the economic recovery in the months to come. A comprehensive approach to employee benefits and communications is critical to both the company and its employees.
The post COVID-19 era will have an economy shaped by new habits and regulations. Employers and employees alike will discover the benefits of a new way of working and living that will challenge traditional business and lifestyle norms.
The implications of these new habits and regulations are only just beginning to be felt, but what is clear is that the relationship between employers and employees in this new normal will be different. And the status quo is unlikely to return.
Employers are struggling with entire workforces working remotely, often for the first time. The challenges are real: fostering engagement and communicating with their employees, demonstrating empathy, being available and accessible, recognizing the impact of social isolation and loneliness, and taking steps to address that culture of isolation with trust, patience and support for one another during these challenging times.
And employees, on top of the usual financial stress they’ve been experiencing, are struggling with whole new sets of challenges in working remotely.
Stressors aggravated by COVID-19 can include social isolation, loneliness and depression, technology challenges, maintaining routines, schedules and work/life balance, childcare responsibilities and remote learning. All of which are adding to the disruptive stress employees are experiencing and increasing the financial impact on employer’s bottom-lines.
It is no secret that financial stress has a significant impact on mental health, productivity, turnover and absenteeism in the workplace. By some estimates, pre-pandemic financial stress cost US businesses upwards of $500 billion per year. Lost productivity, turnover and other factors related to stress cost the average company between 11-14% of their total payroll expense. Since March of 2020, there is growing evidence that COVID-19 is having a serious and constant impact on employee’s mental health, further exacerbating the financial impact on employers’ bottom lines.
The American Journal of Managed Care estimates that nearly 7 in 10 employees feel the COVID-19 pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career. 88% of workers reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress over the past couple of months. And, among those reporting stress, 62% noted losing at least 1 hour a day in productivity and 32% lost at least 2 hours a day.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) confirms that financial stress, now aggravated by COVID-19 is the leading cause of lost productivity, unplanned absences, lower job performance and greater distractions among employees.
So, there is a measurable incentive for employers to think more broadly about how to take positive actions around the health and wellbeing of their workforce.
As employers plan for the pandemic recovery in the months to come, a comprehensive approach to benefits and communications are key to both the company and its employees. An effective approach builds employee trust in employer leadership and encourages workers to feel more committed to their organization’s goals. Supporting employee well-being will be crucial for recovery and preparing for the new normal.
In Part 2 of this series, I’ll describe what employers have to gain from offering a financial wellness solution as part of a more holistic approach to employee wellbeing.
Christian Mango is the president of Financial Fitness for Life , a leading financial wellness solution providing in-person employee financial coaching coupled with best-in-class technology.