Nearly a third (29 per cent) of Canadians are distracted at work as a result of their personal financial situation, according to Sun Life Financial’s 2016 health index.

Its survey, which polled 2,402 Canadians, found three of the top four stressors are personal and household finances (45 per cent), budgeting (32 per cent) and unexpected finances (31 per cent). As well, one-third of respondents reported feeling insecure about their overall financial health.

Read: Linking financial, physical wellness to mental health

Employers are an important source of support for Canadians dealing with financial issues, says Kevin Dougherty, president at Sun Life Financial Canada. “It’s something that employers have a huge stake in . . . it impacts productivity and benefits and pension costs.”

Sun Life’s annual health index has traditionally reported on mental and physical health, but this year the survey also asked Canadians about their financial health. “We increasingly have been seeing the link between financial health, physical health and mental health,” says Dougherty. “People are so overwhelmed with financial stress that they can’t look after themselves properly or concentrate on their jobs. So these three components are quite interrelated and impact one another.”

Indeed, the survey found that among the 50 per cent of respondents who experienced one or more serious health issue, 42 per cent said it caused them some degree of financial hardship.

Read: 71% of employers to focus on employees’ financial well-being: survey

According to Dougherty, employers can support their employees’ financial well-being in several ways, including:

  • Educating them about the savings plans available through the workplace. “They can make a huge difference, especially if they have a matching component because the match creates a very large incentive to not leave the money on the table,” says Dougherty. “Over time, a significant amount of savings can accumulate . . . and those savings can take a lot of the financial stress out.”
  • Offering resources such as financial planning tools. “We’ve seen in this year’s data and previous year’s data that having some kind of financial plan makes a huge difference in how people view their situation,” says Dougherty. “Knowing where you’re going gives you confidence . . . even if you have challenges, if you figured out how you’re going to address them over time, it’s a big weight off.”
  • Boosting financial literacy through lunch-and-learn sessions. “A lot of financial advisors would do these on a complementary basis,” says Dougherty.
  • Informing employees about the upcoming registered retirement savings plan contribution deadline. This is something that employers can do right away through electronic communications, notes Dougherty.
  • Opening up the dialogue about overall well-being at work. Dougherty says that having someone to talk to, whether that be through conversations with colleagues or through employee assistance programs, relieves the stresses that individuals carry with them.

Read: Beware the legal risks of providing financial advice to staff

Sun Life’s survey also found 77 per cent of respondents think employees are entitled to receive a health benefits plan sponsored by their employer despite the fact that employers are not legally required to provide health insurance. Only five per cent of respondents said they don’t think employee health benefits should be an entitlement.

However, Dougherty says most employees are still uneducated about benefits, pensions and other employee programs. “People tend to filter out information until they need it,” he says, adding that with this in mind, employers should continually promote their benefits and pension programs to ensure engagement.

Read:  How to bring financial literacy into the workplace

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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