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4 ways to boost employee engagement through holistic workplace wellness

By Liz Walker, HR Director, Unum UK

Financial stress is thought to cost the UK economy £121 billion a year in lost productivity and those with debt problems are twice as likely to develop depression, so it makes sense for businesses to have a strategy in place to support employee wellbeing.

The beginning of the year can be dreary for many. Around 1 in 3 UK adults are thought to have bought Christmas presents on credit last year and with households spending an estimated £821 on festivities, it’s not surprising some are suffering a post-Christmas financial hangover.

Even though ‘Blue Monday’ is behind us, any day can be ‘blue’ for your employees. Here are my top tips for building resilience in the workplace all year round.

Provide support for the unexpected

The Financial Conduct Authority’s ‘Financial Lives’ survey found 50 percent of UK adults show one or more characteristics of financial vulnerability. Not only will these individuals suffer disproportionately if anything unexpected occurs outside their financial means, they are more at risk of using payday loans or advance credit cash options, which exacerbate problems further.

A financially-focused benefits programme including products like Income Protection, Life Insurance and Sick Pay Insurance offer a financial safety net if employees are faced with the unexpected.

At Unum, we developed a Workplace Communications Blueprint as a resource for employers. The research shows employees prefer a range of different methods to receive communications about their benefits – one size does not fit all.

Tailoring your benefits communication delivery to your employees’ needs can ensure your message is better received and is a good way to maximise connection with your messages.

While older generations may be more receptive to print and email, Millennials and even younger workers in Generation Z get a lot of their information from mobile devices. Wearables, apps, social media and online support are all typical tools and modes of communication for younger workers. Consider using video too. Research from Quicksprout has shown video can raise the understanding of products by as much as 74 percent.

Look into the future…

Through regular financial education, companies can encourage employees to make plans and smart long-term decisions 365 days a year.

By helping employees learn to take control of their finances year-found, bigger expenses like the holidays won’t feel so damaging to the wallet. Long-term, financially-focused benefits which encourage saving like Life Insurance and workplace savings and investment schemes can be helpful here.

Offering free workshops or seminars led by financial experts can support individuals with setting and achieving financial goals and equip them with budgeting and saving tips. Many third-party providers offer corporate education or financial literacy programmes.

Remember money problems are income-agnostic

CIPD research revealed 20 percent of employees earning between £45,000-£60,000 and 14 percent earning £60,000 plus report financial worries affect their work.

It can be easy to think your employees on the lower end of the pay scale are more vulnerable to financial ill-health, but money worries are income-agnostic and can affect anyone.

To build financial and emotional resilience across your workforce, look beyond salaries and seniority. Look at what’s happening in your organisation across the board – what does

uptake of financially-focused benefits, EAP traffic, sick leave or flexible working requests tell you?

Your business can develop appropriate internal support and opportunities based on this information, so you can intervene early and prevent problems from escalating.

A holistic approach to employee wellness

When devising a workplace wellness strategy, consider your employees’ physical, mental and financial health – and how they’re related.

For example;  research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute confirms money worries can have an enormous effect on mental wellbeing, which can lead to both the cause and effect of mental health problems.

By understanding the link between money and mental health, you’ll be able to better understand potential ill-health triggers and how you can help your staff. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are particularly valuable when staff require additional emotional support.

EAPs offer direct, confidential contact with experts who can support individuals with areas causing emotional distress, from family issues to work-related problems, addiction and mental illness. 

It’s important not to rule out measures which provide support outside the office too.

Issues like lack of sleep may not seem relevant to a business wellness programme at first, but sleep deprivation is costing the British economy £40 billion a year in lost productivity and poor health. To encourage better sleep, consider avoiding late-night emails or inviting sleep experts to in-house workshops.

About the author

Liz Walker, HR Director, Unum UK

In her time at Unum, Liz has spearheaded work to remove the stigma of mental health in the workplace and actively works to help raise awareness of mental health as an asset and an integral part of a holistic health and wellbeing strategy.

About Unum

Unum is a leading employee benefits provider offering financial protection through the workplace including Income Protection, Life insurance, Critical Illness, and Dental cover.