New analysis by The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, sponsored by Salary Finance, has revealed that over two thirds (67%) of employees who are struggling financially report at least one sign of poor mental health that could affect their ability to function at work.
Symptoms include loss of sleep, poor concentration, and reduced motivation. With 5% of employees saying that they are finding it difficult to make ends meet, that’s nearly one million people in the UK who are likely to be struggling with mental health difficulties at work, driven by financial issues. For those who are financially comfortable, this falls to 41% reporting the same signs of poor mental health.
Financial difficulties hit sleep, concentration and productivity
As pledges on both workers’ rights and mental health form a key part of the major parties’ pre-election manifestos, this new analysis of data from 40,000 households shines a light for the first time on the relationship between the two. The charity found:
- A third (36%) of employees who are in financial difficulty reported loss of sleep in the last month, compared to 13% who are financially comfortable
- Nearly a third (29%) said they’ve struggled to concentrate lately due to stress or worries, compare to just 12% who are financially comfortable
- Over half (55%) said they’d achieved less than they’d like in the last month due to mental health problems, compared to just under a third (30%) for those who are financially comfortable.
In addition to struggling with sleep, concentration and productivity, employees in financial difficulty also reported particular issues with workplace relationships and juggling the demands of multiple jobs or managing financial admin during work hours.
‘Just about managing’ employees also affected
What should be of additional concern to employers is that it is not just those that are experiencing difficulties that are affected.
There is also a noticeable difference in the symptoms of poor wellbeing among employees who identified themselves as ‘just about managing’ financially, suggesting that even a less intense financial strain can have an impact on both wellbeing and productivity.
Financial difficulties significantly increase our risk of developing mental health problems, and with nearly half (45%) of all working days lost to ill health in 2015/16 caused by stress, the case for employers to act is strong.
Need for employer support
Money and Mental Health, which was set up last year by Martin Lewis, is calling on employers to:
- Boost their employees’ financial security by providing both savings schemes and short-term loans through payroll, allowing a lower rate of interest to be offered and helping employees to avoid fees and charges
- Equip managers to talk about both mental health problems and financial difficulties, tackling stigma and improving access to support
- Support employees who are taking sickness absence to avoid financial difficulty, by establishing reasonable sick pay policies, considering group income protection policies and by signposting to welfare advice where appropriate.
Commenting, Polly Mackenzie, Director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said:
“Whatever we do for a living, few of us manage to leave our personal lives at the door when we get to work. Worrying about making ends meet can pervade every aspect of life, from our relationships, to our sleep, so there’s no wonder it’s affecting our performance at work. With the rise of the gig-economy, zero-hours contracts and a decade of sluggish wage growth, many people in work have felt a squeeze on living standards – which is having an impact on their mental health, and in turn, their performance at work. The good news is that there are practical, and achievable, things that employers can do to invest in the financial wellbeing of their workforce, improving both their employees’ mental health and their own bottom-line.”
Asesh Sarker, CEO of SalaryFinance commented:
“This research highlights the opportunity for employers to deliver programmes that have a significant positive impact on the lives of their employees, both in and out of the workplace. The results show the extent to which financial issues are affecting employees, but also that the impact extends beyond those in serious difficulty. Employers are ideally placed to provide services that help those with the greatest need, but they can also play a preventative role that enables all employees to manage their finances more effectively and avoid reaching a crisis point.”