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    A pocketful of stress – the impact of financial ill-health

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    In support of Stress Awareness month – nudge, Swiss Life and Unum have united to explore one of the biggest contributors to stress and money worries.

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    Pre-pandemic in the UK, ‘60% of respondents1 said they frequently feel monetary stress’ - and that was before the economy came to a grinding halt. Today, in the US finances are the number 1 cause of stress and distraction at work2 . Everyone experiences stress from time to time and that’s the norm. But if stress is a constant feeling that continues unmanaged - it can cause serious damage to people’s mental health.

    Mental health disorders can affect anyone at any time in their lives. The problem is mental health is complex and everyone’s experience is different. On the other hand, money affects us all. When we feel in control of our money – we often feel in control of our lives. That’s why financial wellbeing is a foundation of wellbeing.

    CIPD’s 2020 Health and wellbeing at work3 report stated, “More organisations are trying to take a holistic approach to supporting people’s health and wellbeing, with mental health the most common priority, but financial well-being is still neglected as a priority area by most employers.”

    Swiss Life and Unum are trailblazing in supporting their people’s wellbeing by building resilience against financial stress through financial education with nudge. If you’re yet to add a financial pillar to your wellbeing strategy, here are four key considerations to keep in your in back pocket during your wellbeing programme planning:

    1. Many of us worry about money every week

    nudge research reveals an undeniable link between money worries and mental health. The ‘Elephant in the workplace report’4, says 49% of people do not feel relaxed about their financial situation and 24% are often, or always, stressed about money. Sadly, some people (18%) worry about money every day and 52% say every week. Money worries can be a drain on people’s mental resources and it's time that changed, for good.

    2. Financial stress is a top cause of poor mental health

    The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) stated that mental health and stress are a main cause of sick leave. A CIPD financial wellbeing report found5 money worries have a major effect on our mental and physical health, which can in turn affect performance. Recent reports confirm that financial concerns are the biggest cause of stress in the UK and US today.

    3. Feeling in control of money is what people want

    People’s money management skills are the driver of this stress. nudge research6 found the biggest cause of financial anxiety is people’s savings, or lack thereof, and fear for their financial future. If we know it's a lack of savings and future financial planning, then let’s kick-start employee savings and retirement plans today, to make them feel more confident tomorrow. It's not a quick fix but planning and action brings more confidence and control each day.

    4. Employers are in the best position to help

    The question remains, what’s stopping people from saving when they know they should? Well, they simply don’t know where to start. Many don’t know how to manage their money and are asking for help. Some say they’re overwhelmed by financial information; others don’t know who to ask or trust, and too many just don’t have the confidence to take action. People need help and employers are in the best position to provide support.

    So, what else can employers do to help their people with financial stress?

    Employee Assistance Programmes

    Since financial wellbeing is only one piece in the stress puzzle, Unum has devised a holistic Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), provided via LifeWorks through Morneau Shepell. It’s a one-stop support shop to help employees address stress with practical and interactive learning, and there’s advice for managers too.

    Stress is so complex, which is why LifeWorks has developed a Total Wellbeing Index (TWI). The TWI assesses and identifies the key aspects of wellbeing that an individual should strengthen alongside tools, resources and relevant information via the CareNow programme.

    The CareNow programme has eight digital modules, including one dedicated to ‘Coping’, designed to help employees navigate difficult situations and build positive coping strategies. Other modules focus attention on areas such as stress, anxiety and communication.

    There is also a section on financial wellbeing titled ‘Money’ which aims to help employees with budgeting, saving, investing, retirement planning and taxes. Unum’s wellbeing calendar provides access to articles and resources including a recent podcast with nudge7. nudge is a specialist financial wellbeing platform, coaching people to act on their finances, so they feel in control of life.

    A nudge in the right direction for wellbeing

    nudge is utilised by Swiss Life and Unum employees because both organisations understand the importance and value of strong financial wellbeing. Swiss Life is a big advocate for financial wellbeing and has partnered with nudge to prioritise financial wellbeing for both employees and customers. Michael Hansen, CEO Swiss Life Network explains about Swiss Life’s partnership with nudge:

    "We are delighted to have joined forces with nudge to continue to provide a world-class service to our clients and Network Partners through innovative and value-adding new solutions. Swiss Life's purpose, to give people financial confidence through completely tailored solutions, aligns perfectly with nudge. Working together, nudge and Swiss Life can reach more people to increase awareness around financial choice and support them in taking control of their financial future.”

    Ultimately, poor financial wellbeing is a business risk and it’s time for c-suites to give Reward and HR teams autonomy to deliver financial wellbeing programmes. Just as Swiss Life and Unum have.

    Stress-related absence is on the rise

    The 2020 CIPD report8 uncovered stress-related absence over the last year has increased, unfortunately 33% of those who report that stress-related absence has increased in their organisation over the past year are not taking any steps to address it.

    Unum’s service supports employees before, during and after sickness absence, with specialists in occupational therapy, occupational psychology, physiotherapy, and nursing. Not only does the service help absent employees make a safe and sustainable return to work, but also supports employees who are still at work and potentially struggling.

    Emptying your pockets of stress

    The fact of the matter is employees want your help to improve their wellbeing. They’re waiting for guidance, education and support to build a stronger future, particularly when it comes to their financial futures. Whether people are struggling financially or not, money connects us all. Which is why Swiss Life and Unum prioritise financial wellbeing as a benefit for people – understanding that everyone deserves the same opportunity to reduce financial stress and increase financial success, to take control of their life goals and future. Find out more about nudge here.

    Equally, if you haven’t used Unum’s services before, speak to the team and understand who, how and when to refer someone. At Unum, we’re well equipped to help embed your wellbeing strategy.