Published: 16th May 2023
It’s Mental Health Awareness (MHA) Week, and this year, the focus is on anxiety.
“Anxiety is a normal emotion in us all, but sometimes it can get out of control and become a mental health problem.” Mental Health Foundation (MHF)
Everyone gets anxious from time to time, and there are many causes. However, with the cost-of-living crisis impacting the nation’s mental health; this year, MHA Week is bringing attention to financial anxiety.
What is Anxiety?
As the MHF state above, anxiety is a normal emotion we all feel, which is why it can be overlooked.
This is when anxiety becomes a problem.
“It’s usually when our anxiety feels really intense or overwhelming that it starts to interfere with our daily life...” (NHS)
If a person actively avoids situations that cause anxiety, has an anxious response that far outweighs the situation, can no longer perform everyday tasks, or has panic attacks, anxiety has become a mental health problem.
At this point, an individual is unlikely to be able to manage their anxiety alone and will need professional support.
Financial Anxiety in the UK
Many people are still feeling the effects of the pandemic, with some industries hit harder than others. However, it’s the cost-of-living crisis that’s impacting employees’ finances today.
In the UK, 11.5 million people have less than £100 in savings (FCS) - less than the cost of a weekly shop for a family of four.
We’re probably all familiar with the phrase ‘saving for a rainy day’, but for many people in the UK, today is that rainy day, and they don’t have a savings pot to help them through it. It’s hardly surprising that one in ten adults feel hopeless about their financial situation.
The Impact on Employees
When people can’t make ends meet, two things tend to happen – they make cuts, or they borrow, thus increasing their debts.
When we need to tighten our belts, we tend to cut back on the non-essential items, the luxuries we enjoy but don’t need. However, a YouGov report found that people are also having to cut back on their daily essentials, with 32% of households making cuts on ‘staple essential food items’.
Additionally, the 2022 YouGov survey found that 42% of Britons had cancelled their gym membership, and 34% had given up pursuing a hobby due to the additional expense.
Gym memberships and hobbies might fall into the ‘non-essential’ category, but let’s consider their impact on mental wellbeing.
In their article, ‘The science behind why hobbies can improve our mental health’, the University of Reading states that having a hobby is linked to lower levels of depression. Furthermore, there’s a proven link between physical wellbeing and mental health, so it should be concerning when employees are cutting back on the ‘non-essential’ activities that keep them mentally and physically healthy.
Nearly nine million Brits are in serious debt, and only around a third receive help. (FCS)
According to The Money Charity, as of February 2023, the average credit card debt per household was £2,277, and the average total unsecured debt per UK adult was £3,965, with the average debt per UK household being £65,510.
Households and individuals may always have some form of debt, such as a mortgage or loans for higher purchases, like a new car. However, the year-on-year comparison puts things into perspective. By the end of February 2023, the combined total of money people in the UK owed was £1,839.3 billion – a £66.4 billion increase from the 2022 figures.
Debt becomes a cycle, with people borrowing more to pay off loans. It’s hardly surprising that half of adults with problem debt also have a mental health illness.
The Impact on Employers
Is financial anxiety impacting your business?
Businesses feel the impact when financial anxiety becomes debilitating or has led to mental ill health. Anxiety-related unplanned absenteeism and the number of employees going on long-term sick leave are increasing. Employees experiencing money worries cost the UK economy £120 billion and 17.5 million lost work hours.
7.6% of UK absences are directly attributable to anxiety and stress, and “1 in 6 employees in the UK reported having a mental health condition, and stress, depression and anxiety are leading causes of sickness absence” (Gov.UK).
Loss of Productivity
When our mind is focused on our worries and anxieties, it can be hard to switch off and focus on other tasks – including work. This directly leads to a loss in employee productivity. Furthermore, employees often hide their anxiety and mental health from their employers and continue to work. This is presenteeism – working when sick or at reduced productivity levels - and it costs UK businesses an estimated £605 per employee annually.
Reduce Financial Anxiety with Sodexo Engage
The statistics show that financial anxiety is impacting your people and your business. Embedding mental and financial wellbeing benefits into your organisation and putting employee wellbeing first is an investment that companies can’t afford to overlook.
With 76% of Brits saying that the government isn’t doing enough to help, employees are turning to their organisations to bridge the gap.
Here’s how Sodexo Engage can help you help your people.
Stretch Salaries Further
Our Employee Discounts Platform gives your people savings on everyday essentials and wellbeing-boosting treats and activities. Available on the go, employees reap the savings when they purchase discounted voucher codes from a vast range of high street and high-end retailers, online and in-store.
Additionally, our Household Support Card is another way to offer significant financial support to your employees and their families, allowing them to earn up to 15% cashback at participating retailers.
Consolidate Employee Loans
Debt consolidation by Salary Finance helps your people combine their debts into one manageable payment, often with substantially less interest than high-street lenders. It minimises money worries, makes everything easier to cope with, and helps people pay off debts quicker.
Support Mental Health
Embed an Employee Assistance Programme into your business. As well as including financial wellbeing features, it will provide your people with access to BCAP-accredited counsellors 24/7, ensuring there’s support available whenever they need professional and confidential help for when their worries become too big to handle alone.
Sodexo Engage has over 60 years of experience in the employee engagement and wellbeing industry. We’re so much more than an employee benefits provider, and we’re committed to providing resources that help you help your people, sharing insights on the issues impacting you today.
Arrange a call with one of our employee wellbeing and engagement experts to discover how we can empower your people and boost your business.