Employees Are Stressed About Money. Financial Wellness Benefits Can Help.

During a worldwide public health crisis, adding new employee benefit plans may not be top of mind for employers—and that’s completely understandable. But the pandemic and its economic fallout present a unique opportunity for employers to consider new ways to support their employees’ financial stability.

Even before COVID-19, we know one in three employees said their personal finances are a distraction at work and one in ten employees said that financial stress has impacted their attendance. Employee financial wellness programs provide access to a variety of financial tools and services, such as loans and financial counseling, that supplement traditional benefits and help employees through tough financial situations.

Employee financial wellness programs come in many shapes and sizes, and what works at one company may not work in another—the right program will maximize the benefit to employees and could reduce the stress they bring to work. Finding the right program does require understanding employees’ financial lives, but there are many ways to collect information at an aggregate level without tying data points to specific employees

The National Fund for Workforce Solutions and the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis have collaborated on a new Guide to Employee Financial Wellness to help employers identify the best program for their team. The guide combines four years of research and best practices collected from a wide range of employers using employee financial wellness programs.

The guide walks employers through six steps to selecting and implementing an employee financial wellness program:

  1. Understand your employees’ financial lives
  2. Assess your employees’ financial wellness needs
  3. Determine the right kind of financial wellness solutions for your company
  4. Find and commit to your financial wellness program
  5. Implement and evaluate your solution
  6. Amend your solution based on evaluation and feedback

Since the COVID-19 crisis hit, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas launched Financial Wellness @ Work with TrueConnect to help their employees navigate the financial blow caused by the pandemic. TrueConnect provided quick loans to United Way staff as a lower-cost alternative to predatory payday loans. “Three hundred dollars to $1,000 can be the difference between things starting to unravel and things being OK,” said Susan Hoff of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas in a Dallas News story.

The pandemic has escalated the urgency for employers to invest in the financial wellness of their people. As companies regain their footing, helping employees regain theirs through employee financial wellness programs can be a win-win solution.

Ellen G. Frank-Miller, PhD

-- Senior Scientist and Adjunct Professor, Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis.