Financial wellness in the workplace

Workplace wellness is a booming business, especially at the corporate end of town. In Australia, property groups like Dexus and CBRE are embracing wellness initiatives to differentiate themselves in the office leasing space. Not only are they incorporating wellness principles into their building standards (WELL by Delos being one example), a friend of mine in asset management now tells me property companies are developing wellness platforms and portals for tenants, allowing building users to tap into a network of on-site yoga instructors, nutrition experts and chiropractors, as they seek to help their tenants create healthier and more productive workforces.

Of course, many of us know that wellness in the workplace extends beyond the purely physical. Along with mental health, financial wellness is an area that is now increasingly gaining the attention of employers. According to a study published by AMP last year, 1 in 4 Australian workers experiences financial stress, with a lack of confidence in their ability to make ends meet. Business owners and managers are under no illusion that this type of stress has an impact on workplace productivity.

50 percent of stressed workers site bad debt as the trigger for their sleepless nights while 35 percent are worried about saving for their retirement. The study also found 30 percent of females are more likely to experience financial stress, compared to 19 percent of males. In the US the numbers are similar, with a Bank of America report finding 75 percent of employees suffer from some degree of financial pain.

Last year I wrote a post for Daily Fintech detailing a number of companies operating at the edges of the financial wellness spectrum. Companies profiled at the time – PayActiv, SalaryFinance, Ziero Financial, Zebit and Kashable – mainly focused on salary advances.

More true wellness players are now emerging, such as TRUSTIVO, an online hub that allows employees to access a national network of financial professionals, educational tools, as well as other financial wellness support resources. But strong examples of technology led innovation are thin on the ground. It is clear that this is a wide-open space for innovation, supported by a business community that is increasingly receptive to ways to enhance their workplace offering. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

Ask yourself this – when was the last time your employer offered you a product or service that could have a meaningful, positive impact on your finances? If you work for a large corporate, you’re probably more likely to have had some exposure to something over the past year. But if you work for a small business, a retirement fund option when you signed on is probably where your employer’s involvement in your financial wellness started and stopped.

With cloud services now embedded in many emerging small businesses, delivering wellness options and platforms for employees on top of this is now viable. The idea of employers being active participants in reducing employee financial stress is where PFM needs to head. At the end of the day, salary is the primary source of cash flow for the vast majority of workers. So managing this monthly flow of funds in a responsible way benefits both the employee and the employer. There is no question it is a fine line to tread – not everyone will see value in being told how to spend their money. But for those that are lost at sea, it could be exactly what they need to truly start getting ahead.

Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Jessica Ellerm is a thought leader specializing in Small Business.

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