Understanding Economic Stress In The Workplace — And 5 Ideas To Help
Updated: Jan 8
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2020 under the title “Economic Stresses? 4 Ideas to Help.” It has been completely reworked, expanded and updated to reflect the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Economic stress is real, and it’s wide-spread. According to the Canadian Payroll Association, almost half of working Canadians say stress related to their personal finances affects their performance at work.
The last year has only added to that stress. Many parts of the country were already experiencing a significant economic downturn, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has compounded that crisis by forcing businesses to close their doors and furlough or lay off staff.
Amidst so much fear and uncertainty — and with many employees now working from home — it may be harder than ever for people to put aside their financial worries.
Although the result of distracted employees can be reductions in focus, employee engagement and productivity, this is a situation that requires a deeply human response. Here are 5 practical ideas for ways to reach out, reassure, and show you care.
1. Invest In Employee Financial Wellness Programs
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) says a financial wellness program for employees is as important for a business as its mental health programs, wellness plans, and health and other benefits. The FCAC website offers strategies for planning and setting up a financial wellness program that can empower employees and help them feel more in control.
The FCAC points out that an important component in a financial wellness program is to include detailed information on your employee benefit and retirement plans — including your loyalty rewards program — since employees don’t always know how to make the best use of these benefits.
As the FCAC writes: “Improved financial knowledge, especially when customized with your benefit plan in mind, can help your organization and its employees get the best value from the benefits package. It will also help employees better appreciate the benefits provided to them.”
2. Stay Connected Through Frequent Communications
Open and authentic communications can help reinforce company values, update employees and members on plans for recovery and growth, and create a sense of certainty — all important ways of motivating teams.
It’s also important to remember that listening is a key component in communications. As UK leadership coach Gina Gardiner writes: “Listen carefully and you can discover what motivates [your staff or members]. The language they use, the actions they take can inform you of what internal drivers and motivators make them tick. Once you understand where they are coming from, it becomes so much easier to speak their language and to give them the opportunity to thrive. When they are thriving professionally, your department or organization has far more potential to succeed.”
3. Share The Wins — And The Challenges
According to global employee recognition and engagement company O.C. Tanner, modern leaders “translate the purpose and values of the organization and personalize them for their team … Great leaders connect employees to three specific things: purpose, accomplishment, and one another.”
When there is good news — whether it’s a new or renewing client, a successful bid or an improved process — share and celebrate it as a way of fostering a sense of hope and confidence that things will improve.
But it’s also key to be honest about challenges. Transparency can build trust. As leadership coach Gina Gardiner writes, “Being honest does not mean being brutal. Stating the case clearly and being up front, even when the message itself is unpopular, is far less damaging in the long run than trying to make things look like something they are not.”
4. Host A Virtual Seminar With A Guest Speaker
Taking a break from routine to focus on group learning can create a great sense of team among employees. For unions and associations, virtual seminars can help support and strengthen your membership. Topics could cover everything from financial planning to exercise to nutrition to how best to present yourself in online meetings. And, whether you are a business, union or association, today’s digital platforms enable you to provide online learning without the need to pay a speaker’s travel expenses.
5. Show Appreciation
Recognition is even more important during difficult times. There are many affordable and unique ways to show gratitude for the hard work and resilience of team members — e-cards, gift cards, handwritten thank you cards, shout outs on social media, or employee rewards programs — to name just a few.
And, at a time when front-line workers are even more essential to our daily lives, businesses and associations need to be proactive in extending recognition to these employees in ways that are both meaningful and helpful.
The bottom line is: recognizing the impact of financial stress and implementing strategies to support your employees or members in managing that stress will reinforce a culture of integrity and loyalty. And that’s something that will continue to bring benefit as vaccines turn the tables on COVID and as the economy rebounds.
Because most economists agree that, at some point down the road, we will see an increase in the economy and stability in all sectors. Until then, bear in mind the financial challenges facing your team or your members, and take meaningful action to demonstrate your support and appreciation.
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