8 ways to get employees talking about financial wellbeing and mental health

Over the last year, the connection between money worries and poor mental health has been made very clear. And so it’s more critical than ever to create a culture where employees feel they have an outlet to talk about their money questions or worries. Time and time again, having a safe space to talk has been proven to have a positive impact on mental health in the workplace.

So how do you get employees to talk about money and mental health in a positive, supportive way? Here are eight ideas to get you started:

1.    Use storytelling 

Share real-life stories of employees who have successfully improved their financial wellbeing. It makes financial wellbeing more approachable and normalises the conversation. It’s even more powerful when these stories come from people in leadership roles. Steve West, people director at Lightful, says: “Stories have real impact. The best way to get anyone to consider doing anything is to give tangible, real life examples. If you can do it through your leadership team, it can have even more value.”

2.    Make it interactive 

Use simple quizzes, polls and games to engage employees in learning about their finances. Lynn Barnett, head of reward at C Hoare & Co, says: “We’ve tried to engage people with a little game that helps them discover whether they’re a ‘kangaroo,’ ‘ostrich,’ or an ‘owl’ with their finances.” This is not only fun, but an easy way to get conversations started.

3.    Open the door to personalised guidance 

Every one of your employees is in a unique financial situation. Offer one-to-one sessions to give employees tailored support on how to improve their finances. Talking about money in a group setting can be uncomfortable for many of us – and even more so with a boss. 

Give your employees a way to discuss their money and build a plan with someone neutral like a dedicated money coach. In addition to providing a safe space, money coaches can dig into the most relevant areas for each employee, help break patterns, form new habits and offer the right support to help achieve financial goals. 

4.    Make it fun 

Host financial wellness challenges or contests to encourage employees to take action. Try individual or team savings challenges like a low spend or no spend day, or the Penny Challenge or Fiver Friday. Jamie Broadley, group head of health and wellbeing at Serco, says: “You can encourage employees to start saving with as little as £5 a month. Saving behaviours are one of the most important parts of financial wellbeing and a boost to other positive behaviours too.”

5.    Make it easy 

Embed learning into existing routines or contexts. Many people don’t want to be asked to download yet another app. At Lightful, money coaches chat with employees over email because it’s the easiest, most convenient way to contact each other. It’s where employees already are. But there are other ways to make conversations easier. 

Can you bolt a “Money Moment” to the last five minutes of a meeting? Can you set up a short webinar that people can attend during lunch? At Lightful, West says, “we did a complete financial wellbeing take-over of our all company WAM (Wednesday Afternoon Meeting). Doing it there meant that everyone came along by default and then 80% signed up to meet with a money coach on the day.”

6.    Create a supportive community of managers 

Encourage conversations between managers and direct reports that go beyond individual performance. At Serco, Broadley recently ran a campaign called “I Wish My Manager Knew,” which encouraged employees to share more about their life context, including money conversations. All the submissions were anonymous but it started a dialogue about how to make manager catch-ups more holistic. 

Try encouraging managers to lead by example and ask open, non-judgemental questions about employees’ lives such as, what their big goals are, or how they’re feeling about rising costs. 

7.    Make it relevant 

Do you have a resource centre where employees can find trusted guidance? Provide employees with information and resources that are specific to their job, industry, or stage of life. If you have employees who are really passionate about personal finance and financial wellbeing, encourage them to get involved. They’ll help create a supportive environment and community where everyone can share their money lessons and money wins. 

Broadley says “We asked our colleagues to share their best tips with each other on a webinar and then put that into a PDF to share around. And the engagement was massive because it was crowdsourced – it was coming from colleagues, not something shiny from corporate.” Thinking about the language you’re using can also help encourage people to talk about money. Using plain English and less jargon is a powerful way to increase engagement with financial wellbeing.

8.    Make it accessible 

For smaller companies that might find providing a structured system a bit more challenging, consider a “buddy system.” Pairing colleagues up allows them to support each other in the workplace and beyond. 

Lightful pairs new starters up from day one for onboarding. West describes the value of this relationship: “Given the overall culture and the small size, it allows people to stay in contact very frequently and really get to know their colleagues. So actually our buddies – whilst they’re there for onboarding in theory – they stay in contact and become lifelong buddies throughout their entire employment.” 

You can spend a lot of time putting financial wellbeing in place, but engaging colleagues is often the hardest part. So this year for Time to Talk Day, make it easier for employees to talk about money, as well as get support for their individual needs. It will go a long way towards creating a culture of financial wellness in your workplace.

This article originally appeared on REBA on 02 February 2023.

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