As part of Manulife Financial Corp.’s latest study on health and wealth, researchers talked to professional counsellors to explore the relationship between finances and life’s challenges. Their insights were enlightening and may be valuable for employers wanting to effectively promote financial wellness among employees.

Here’s part of what they shared:

  • 92 per cent agreed that financial issues are intricately woven into people’s lives and problems;
  • 74 per cent said financial challenges affect emotional health and 46 per cent said they affect physical well-being;
  • 50 per cent of the times when people seek support, financial issues are part of the underlying issue; and
  • Only 33 per cent of counsellors saw people making the link between financial issues and other life matters.

Read: Shame about financial struggles affecting workplace productivity, employer costs

Why aren’t Canadians making the connection? Close to half of the counsellors surveyed said feelings of shame and embarrassment make it difficult to reveal money issues. Even when people seek help for life issues directly related to finances, money is the last thing they want to discuss.

Employers should take note. Research conducted in 2016 found that employees in good financial situations are happier, healthier and more productive. But even the most comprehensive financial wellness program will only help those who take advantage of it. If employees won’t admit to financial concerns, they’re unlikely to take the first step to seek help. Stigma surrounding money issues is a barrier many find daunting.

How can employers help employees make the leap? Professional counsellors recommend an approach based on mental health.

Society has come a long way when it comes to attitudes on mental health. Mental-health issues, which people hardly discussed a mere generation ago, have been relatively normalized. But that hasn’t happened without effort. Companies have invested heavily in mental-health strategies, and campaigns aimed at starting the conversation around mental illnesses have helped to normalize them. By reducing stigma around mental health, society has started to make it easier for those who suffer to feel more secure in opening up and seeking support.

Read: Allstate targets employee mindfulness, finances in January well-being programs

To remove the stigma facing money issues, professional counsellers recommend an approach based on normalization, non-judgment and ongoing education. It’s the same approach taken to mental health:

  • Normalization: Employees need to know financial issues are common, they’re not alone and there’s a way forward for those ready to make the journey. Examples and statistics can support that normalization.
  • Non-judgement: Having financial issues doesn’t mean those suffering are inept or unable to manage money. Help employees feel comfortable asking for assistance by shining a light on financial wellness and offering accessible tools and support.
  • Education: Help employees understand that financial literacy is a learned skill for everyone that requires education and practice. Ongoing education and support, including topics such as budgeting, investing, home ownership and retirement, can bring solutions within reach.

Read: Financial well-being affecting work performance, stress levels

By normalizing financial issues and encouraging employees to learn about solutions, employers can help their staff to take the first important step on the road to financial wellness. Not only can doing so help avoid larger life crises and contribute to greater overall employee wellness, it can increase workplace engagement and productivity. It’s time to take financial issues out of the darkness and help those suffering see the light.

Lisa Callaghan is vice-president of strategy, marketing and communications at Manulife Financial Corp.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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