Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and this year’s theme is combating loneliness. The Mental Health Awareness Foundation says: “Our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health and we need to find better ways of tackling the epidemic of loneliness. We can all play a part in this.”
Breaking the taboo of talking about money is one way to create a supportive community around financial health and make sure no-one feels alone, or isolated with their money worries. Employees who don’t have someone knowledgeable to speak to are nearly 20% more likely to feel stressed about their personal finances.
Here’s four ways employers can create opportunities for people to engage on money topics and create a sense of community and connection around financial health.
Money worries are universal and can affect anyone, regardless of how much, or how little, they earn. In fact, 95% of people worry about money. Giving a name to “financial wellbeing” and putting the topic on the table alongside other big issues like physical health and mental health helps to normalise it and shows your employees that you view it as a priority.
It’s also incredibly powerful when senior leaders share their own personal money stories. This helps to show that anyone, at any level, can benefit from talking about it more. It also helps to dispel any misconceptions that sharing your money concerns could have a negative impact on your career.
Normalise money conversations
Nine in 10 people find it hard to talk about money (according to MAPS in 2021). And our research has found that 41% of employees don’t think their employer provides support for financial wellbeing.
So despite efforts being made, there is still a disconnect in terms of the impact felt by employees. Invest time in bringing your team managers into the conversation and equipping them with the skills and tools to speak to their teams about money and humanise the experience of seeking financial information.
The concept of a mental health ambassador or “first-aider” is becoming more and more common. Expanding this remit to include ambassadors for financial wellbeing also helps to put a human face to money conversations.
Connect with lifestage moments
Talking about money in the context of life-stage moments gives people something to relate to and reduces the sense that ‘it’s not for me’. Shah Abbasi, one of our head coaches says: “Many employees don’t understand how valuable some of the benefits they get are, until they see them in the context of their dreams for the future”.
One way employers can get closer to this is to prepare “milestone guides” on financial wellbeing that managers can share with new parents, new homeowners, or other groups who share financial concerns or goals to inspire them to discuss their financial plans.
Employers could also look to leverage the networks that already exist – we’ve seen great success with promoting financial coaching through existing communities that support inclusivity in the workplace. “A global organisation we work with chose to create specific financial coaching briefings for the leads of all their D&I networks as part of our launch – it was a fantastic way to create engagement for our new service within networks people were already familiar with, and trust” says Neasa McNulty, Employer Partnerships.
Give your team someone to talk to 1:1
Our research shows that having someone to talk to was the number one thing that helped employees feel good about their financial future. Eighty-nine per cent of employees want help with their finances, and almost 60% want this to be in a coaching style: supportive and validating.
Even if employers create great visibility, and communities of interest around financial wellbeing, the pervasiveness of money taboos may mean some people can still feel alone with their worries. Comparing your situation to others without the full context (trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’) can actually end up being more damaging for some people.
Access to 1:1 coaching means employees have a human, non-judgemental starting point to open up about challenges, worries or concerns.
This kind of support extends to wider issues affecting mental health, beyond just finances. At Octopus Money HQ we partner with fifty50, who provide 1:1 confidential coaching to help employees help build resilience and take a proactive and preventative approach to our mental health.
Verity Symcox, Director of Coaching & Wellbeing at fifty50 says: “when coaching people within the workplace, we find that feeling lonely and being alone are often confused. Covid created physical isolation, social distancing and working from home mandates which left many people feeling lonely. However, as a global society, we have never been more digitally connected. Coaching can help employees distinguish between feeling lonely and being alone and identify proactive ways to help improve social interactions and boost wellbeing.”