Our popular columnist Steve Herbert considers why employers really need to support all three sides of the wellbeing triangle…
Employee wellbeing is a genuinely big and diverse subject – and also a really difficult one for employers to support evenly across every aspect of personal and family wellness.
So which areas do employers typically support, and how might they improve and balance their offerings?
Let’s begin with the simple analogy of visualising employee wellbeing as a triangle.
The triangle represents three of the four key components to employee wellbeing*, which ideally need to be supported by appropriate employment policies and/or employee benefits provision.
And it’s important to note that all three sides of the triangle should be kept in balance. They are:
- Physical Wellbeing: Ensuring that a worker is supported to remain physically healthy and therefore able to undertake their work duties.
- Mental Wellbeing: Ensuring that the employee is able to maintain mental wellness despite work and personal life pressures.
- Financial Wellbeing: Ensuring that the employee is able to access support and guidance to manage their finances both during their working career and later to achieve a comfortable retirement income.
It is important for employers to remember that a problem in any one of the above wellbeing areas can lead to issues in the other two. For instance somebody with a physical illness might also find that this impacts their finances, and that in turn can lead to poor mental health too.
What’s typically on offer?
The next step is to consider whether your organisation is supporting all three sides of the wellbeing triangle equally?
Employers with an established and robust employee benefits package already in place will already be providing a strong level of support for physical health conditions.
And, after a decade of intense media focus, many more employers are now able to also point towards options to support the good mental health of their workforce too.
Which leaves Financial Wellbeing.
Now it’s probably fair to say that this is the one area of the wellbeing triangle that has so often been overlooked by employers.
Partially this is because there are few “packaged” solutions that fully address financial challenges that are of course incredibly varied and potentially complex too.
But that is not the only reason.
Historically many employers have felt that providing support in areas such as Financial Education is beyond the usual realms of employer/employee relations and responsibilities. And other organisations worry that an employer seeking to help their workforce might be seen as providing financial advice.
And there is also some confusion about what constitutes Financial Wellbeing support. Providing active support in the often complex area of pensions planning is of course important, but does relatively little to help people manage the day-to-day financial challenges that so many workers are currently facing.
An employer problem too
And good Financial Wellbeing is important to employers too.
The connected relationships of the wellbeing triangle suggest that a financial problem can actually escalate to encompass mental and/or physical health problems too. And such issues can lead to poor attendance, poor workplace relationships, and even mistakes being made during the working day.
The above are outcomes that employers are keen to avoid at any time, and even more so today following many months of on-off pandemic restrictions. And, as we approach our second pandemic-dominated winter, the pressure on household budgets is increasingly rapidly. And rising interest rates might soon create further problems for those with variable mortgage and debts to repay.
Supporting Financial Wellbeing
Of course one solution would be a significant pay-rise for all employees, but that may be well beyond the means of many businesses only just recovering from pandemic and Brexit related challenges.
So what else can employers do to help their employees?
A good starting point would be to view this short video created by Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing in the summer of 2020. This sets out the challenges for employees and employers of financial stress, and outlines some no or low cost solutions that can go a long way towards helping employees in the potentially difficult months ahead.
The reality is that most employers can do far more to support financial wellbeing, and without necessarily a major expenditure in doing so.
And – given the current pressures on household budgets – there might never be a better time for employers to finally square their wellbeing triangle.
Steve Herbert is Head of Benefits Strategy at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing
* “Social” Wellbeing should also be considered, and is a subject that I may revisit in a future post