An extensive 2018 ‘wellbeing’ survey conducted by Fidelity Investments highlights ‘financial wellbeing’ as the weakest of four main areas of overall personal ‘wellness’. Based on the responses of more than 9000 employees from across the USA, the research also infers a causal relationship between financial wellbeing and workplace productivity levels – particularly levels of absenteeism.
The Fidelity research, conducted in collaboration with academic researchers from both the Stanford Center on Longevity and Cornell University assessed respondent wellbeing across the categories of health, work, life and finances. Each employee was assigned a score out of a hundred. Points were gained across sub-domains within the four broader personal wellness ‘domains’ and assigned based on survey answers:
- Financial (debt, savings, insurance, budgeting)
- Health (physical health, mental health, healthy behaviours)
- Work (work/life balance, career status and opportunities, burnout) and,
- Life (personal satisfaction, sense of purpose, sources of stress, relationships).
The positive takeaway from the research was that across all four well-being domains, 77% of respondents scored high enough to be generally considered ‘well’. Less positive was the fact that 68% of respondents returned an ‘unwell’ score in at least one domain. This indicates that almost 7 out of 10 are struggling in at least one of the four personal wellness domains the methodology defined.
‘Financial Wellbeing’ Category Weakest Across The Research Sample Group
The domain where the largest percent of the sample group were considered to be ‘unwell’ was financial wellbeing. 42% returned a score that categorised them as financially unwell. Overall, financial stress was identified as the second biggest cause of stress overall with only job-related stress more commonly cited. Despite that, only 37% of respondents scored in ‘unwell’ territory for the ‘work wellbeing’ domain.
Financial Stress Linked To Lower Levels Of Workplace Productivity
The Fidelity Investments research found clear correlation between an employee’s level of financial stress and their workplace productivity. Respondents with the most debt also had twice the average level of absenteeism. The research identified unpaid medical bills as the leading indicator of workplace absenteeism and much more closely correlated to an employee having more missed work days than ‘more well-known’ forms of debt like credit cards and student loans. Payday loans, monetary debts to friends and family, retirement plan and mortgages were, however, financial stresses correlated to incremental missed days of work.
Medical bills are, thankfully, a financial worry that is far less pronounced in the UK than in the USA where the study was conducted. But the research does generally tie in with the findings of other UK-based studies that have pinpointed financial wellbeing as critical to both general personal wellbeing and professional productivity.
The message is loud and clear – if employers want to support their workforce on both a personal level and in a way that also has a positive impact on their contribution to the organisation, financial wellbeing must be recognised as a wellness domain with as much influence as those with a longer history of proactive employer action, like health.
"Taking a holistic view of financial and health wellness, in addition to work and life, provides a more complete assessment of employee well-being, which can help employers provide the right benefits to the right person at the right time."
"When it comes to total well-being programs, employers have traditionally focused on health, but have recently expanded efforts to include financial wellness. Financial wellness programs have gone a long way toward helping workers to create a budget they can live with and have helped many employees consolidate and/or minimize debt”.
The accumulation of recent research on the nature and impact of financial wellbeing means that employers are increasingly proactive in their provision of benefits focused on improving employee financial wellness. That’s undoubtedly a step in the right direction and clearly a trend that needs to continue to strengthen to the benefit of both employee and employer.