What your organisation can do (beyond salaries) to help employees during the cost-of-living crisis.
Your favourite pack of biscuits. The fuel in your tank. The butter in your fridge. Train fare. Childcare. Your eye-watering mortgage hike. In this age of perpetual instability, one thing seems certain: this one is affecting all of us.
Whether you’re a twenty-something forced to move back in with your parents, or a forty-something upping sticks because the repayments on your family home became unaffordable overnight – everyone has a story. We cannot assume to understand someone’s situation unless they share it.
It’s about more than the practical implications. Our pockets empty, our brains fizzing with worry… financial wellbeing affects all other areas of our wellbeing: mental, physical and social. In fact, the Mental Health Foundation found that money worries are the most common cause of anxiety – and 1/3 of UK adults with anxiety say they feel ashamed to talk about money.
Organisations that fail to address the impact of the cost of living will face business risks. When employees can’t focus on their work, it impacts productivity. Outdated, one-size-fits-all employment policies are no good for brand reputation. Retention plummets when nervous workforces must prioritise their own survival. The cost-of-living crisis is too big to ignore, and financial wellbeing isn't a topic to shy away from now. Empathetic discussions will go a long way.
So, aside from fair pay – and there’s hardly been a more meaningful time to benchmark salaries – what else can organisations do to ease the strain?
Here are just some of the ways companies can support people’s financial wellbeing on top of salary.
Make considerate policies. How human-centric are your policies, processes and bonuses? Keep reviewing policies to meet the needs of your ever-changing workforce, making room for personal circumstances. If your policies demand more time or financial investment than some can manage, you can price good people out of your talent pool. Be considerate of your people when it comes to flexible working and requirements to be in the office a certain number of days. And ask the right questions – do our policies support working parents, young professionals and those later in their career?
Share benefits. Do people know what perks they’re entitled to? Communicating what’s available demonstrates care and costs little. Exercise, social activity and healthcare access all help keep us happy and healthy – but are often the first to go when times are tight. People aren't looking for frivolous gestures, so think practical – help with things like rail tickets, free parking, and vouchers towards groceries. An office breakfast or lunch provides a moment to bond and connect and one less meal to make or fork out for. When December arrives, those on a lower wage could receive a bigger one-off voucher than those higher up. Who wouldn’t want to work in a place that looks after its own?
Lead with understanding. Companies need to demonstrate care and that comes from the top. Take time to communicate, acknowledge the circumstances and reassure your workforce that they still matter in difficult times. Anxiety thrives in the dark – open, regular Q&As throw open the curtains, vanquishing uncertainty. Transparency, openness and allowing everyone their voice are key to building a culture of safety and trust. It’s up to leaders to create these conditions.
Notice and appreciate people. Create a culture of care and mutual respect, reinforced through line manager training to spot the signs someone is struggling. We can all follow through by simply asking a colleague if they’re okay and showing appreciation. While it’s essential, compensation is not the only way to show someone they are valued. In a time when we all have less, there remains one currency that costs nothing for organisations to give freely: empathy.
In these uncertain and challenging times, we wanted to offer some actions you can do next:
1) Know your audience better. Ongoing listening is imperative to developing the right initiatives, programmes and communications, helping you deploy budgets and resources better. Try out our free 2-minute wellbeing quiz that can be shared with teams to reveal what they truly value when it comes to wellbeing at work.
2) Be clear on the wellbeing deal. From subsidised counselling, to help with budgeting, be upfront about what’s available and make it accessible. A well-defined strategy will help make it clear what people can expect when it comes to support with their financial wellbeing.
3) Support leaders and line managers with training, support and communications to become wellbeing advocates and drive the right behaviours that create a safe space and empathetic approach.
4) Don’t avoid difficult conversations. Create the conditions and opportunities for people to talk about how they are feeling, share their financial wellbeing challenges, and ask for help when they need it.
If you want to have a conversation about the importance of wellbeing and how we at Forty1 could help you and your organisation, we’d love to hear from you.
Mental Health Foundation UK research on anxiety 2023. Uncertain times: Anxiety in the UK and how to tackle it | Mental Health Foundation