Back to Work: Why Employers Need to Talk About Financial Wellness

  • Laura Hughes, Head of Financial Wellness at PayDashboard

  • 19.07.2021 04:30 pm
  • financial wellness

There’s finally light at the end of the tunnel. After a long winter under lockdown and more than a year for many working from home, things are finally getting back to a semblance of normality. It’s great news for employers, who get to fill offices sat idle for many months and drive what they hope will be more productive face-to-face interactions between staff, customers and partners. But amidst all the excitement, there’s a hidden challenge for many staff. Our research shows a third of UK employees will be worse off financially if forced to go back into the office—potentially driving an increase in staff churn, absences and mental health issues.

Many are too embarrassed to say anything about it. The bottom line is that if employers want to force their staff back to the office, it’s time they started supporting them with financial wellness programmes. Technology can play a vital role.

A new era

According to official figures, nearly half (47%) of the adult population in employment did at least some work from home (WFH) during the height of the pandemic last year, rising to over 57% in London. Technology played a key part as businesses rapidly rolled out laptops and purchased accounts for cloud-based collaboration tools, in order to maintain productivity. It’s been widely hailed as a success—so much so that many want to continue the WFH trend even after the pandemic has receded. Deloitte claimed as many as 42% of UK workers want to WFH twice or more per week while as many as 7.5 million want to do so permanently.

Unfortunately, the government doesn’t appear to be on their side, claiming it has no plans to legislate for a “right to work remotely”. That would appear to leave the decision to employers, most of whom will require at least some time spent in the office each week. But there’s a problem: two-fifths (39%) of workers told PayDashboard recently that if their employer didn’t offer a hybrid working option, they’d be forced to search for a new job to save money.

We calculated that, on average, home-workers have saved £300 per week during the pandemic. Most of this has come on travel (£100), childcare (£121), food & drink (£47) and parking costs (£66). As a result, more than a third (36%) believe that going back to the office will make them significantly worse off financially. While some said they’d be forced to look for employment elsewhere, others said they’d be forced to call in sick to save on travel costs. 

Chronically broke 

The data shines a light on the problem of financial insecurity in the UK. Even before the pandemic, research revealed that as many as 70% of workers were “chronically broke”. Another PayDashboard study from this March found the figure to be even higher, with 84% of Brits claiming they worry about their finances, and 70% saying it is COVID-related. Younger people (18-34-year-olds) are disproportionately affected, with 84% saying that financial worries are having a negative and potentially harmful impact on their health. 

Responsible employers don’t just have a moral duty to proactively support these individuals, it also makes business sense. As well as harming physical and mental health, money concerns can severely impact productivity. And 43% of employees we spoke to said that financial wellness would make them more loyal to their current employer. Unfortunately, businesses aren’t stepping up. Two-fifths (40%) of respondents claimed that they receive little or no financial advice or support from their employer. 

It’s good to talk

Many (18%) are too embarrassed to talk about their concerns. In fact, only a quarter of staff with money issues have reached out to their employer. The bottom line is that businesses need to make the first move. If they’re going to mandate a return to the office, it must come in tandem with better financial support—which is not only easily accessible to workers but enables them to get help without needing to speak directly to HR or line managers.

So what happens next? Technology can play a major role in solving these challenges. At PayDashboard we’ve been talking for years about the need to make remuneration more than a one-off event every month, characterised by a limited, one-way dialogue between employer and employee. By using digital platforms like ours to provide payslip information, organisations can easily include other value-added services for their staff—including financial advice and mental wellness initiatives.

To this end, we recently launched an innovative platform called Moneysmart. It’s a type of financial wellness marketplace that intelligently matches users to products and services designed to make their money work harder. It’s just one example of how businesses can take a more proactive role in looking after their employees. After the traumatic experience of the past year, employees are increasingly demanding that the companies they work for take their mental and physical health seriously. Thanks to digital technology, doing so needn’t break the bank. It’s time to talk about financial wellness.


Other Blogs