There is an almost universal and undeniable link between money and mental health that affects us all. When the combination of financial difficulty and poor mental health is experienced in the workplace, it’s not only problematic for the individual, but the company as a whole can suffer.
At Money and Mental Health, we created a best practice checklist for employers with practical steps they can take to help improve both the financial and emotional wellbeing of their workforce.
Building financial resilience
Financial problems can affect employees in many different ways, from financial insecurity to difficulty with managing money. Offering money management tools or personal advice can help towards creating financial stability, as can partnering with financial services providers to offer a payroll savings scheme.
Creating a culture of support
While there have been positive steps over the last few years towards a more compassionate society in relation to mental health, unfortunately, stigma still exists. The same can be said for debt. It is therefore imperative that employers strive to cultivate a working environment free of shame regarding debt and financial difficulty. There are easy ways to do this, including providing resources to help managers support people with mental health problems and/or financial difficulties, and paying for work-related expenses up front, to prevent financial hardship excluding a colleague participating in social activities.
Helping once problems have set in
It’s vital that employees feel supported if they are in the midst of financial problems. Employers should therefore provide access to professional advice and distribute literature around financial wellbeing. They should also signpost to welfare and debt advice services when an employee is facing a substantial loss of income.
When people are experiencing any sort of illness, anxiety about a reduction in income as a result of time off, can act as a disincentive for taking the time off they need. It’s important that employers consider what impact their sick pay policies may have on staff willingness to take sickness absence. They should encourage and support employees to attend to deteriorating mental health problems at the earliest opportunity, and consider a preventative part-time sick leave option.
As we’ve seen over the past year, flexibility in the workplace is more important than ever – and for people with mental health problems, it can be critical in enabling them to continue working. It is crucial for employers to be actively developing reasonable adjustments in the workplace and offering them to employees regularly. While these adjustments might be appropriate to a larger number of employees, those with mental health problems will benefit significantly.
“I asked to reduce my hours at work and was told that my job required full time. Unfortunately, my mental health deteriorated significantly and I was hospitalised… I had nine months off sick and I was dismissed at a hearing because I couldn’t confirm a return to work date. If they had been more reasonable I think I could have returned to work but now seven years later I’m not working.” Expert by experience
Growth and opportunity
Additionally, the last year has exposed the issue of conscious and unconscious bias. This can affect part-time workers as well as those who have mental health problems. As a practice, all employees should be encouraged to take up professional development opportunities that would benefit them, irrespective of hours worked or sickness absence records. Providing buddying and mentoring schemes are other easy ways to nurture professional growth.
“[I] was struggling with my mental health a lot during my training which did slow down my progression due to concentration and time off. The mentoring I had helped me stay on track and push through so I didn’t give up.” Expert by experience
These are just a handful of ways employers can make a genuine and significantly positive difference for their employees who live with mental health problems. Not only would it benefit those members of staff, but as the pandemic has shown, a more open, compassionate and kind workplace has never been more necessary for everyone.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is an independent charity, committed to breaking the link between financial difficulty and mental health problems. If you have personal experience of mental health problems and would like to use your voice to inform our work, find out more about our Research Community here. If you have a professional interest in our work, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our Professional Network.