The Solution to Negative Effects of Financially Stressed Workers

401k, retirement, stress, employees, employersIt's a serious, and rising, problem.

Who is Stressed?

If stressed workers could be easily identified, then the problem of stress could be more readily addressed. However, many variables exist when it comes to determining which workers are stressed, especially since individuals handle stress differently, or consider certain tasks more stressful than others performing the same activity.

Some people thrive under the pressure of corporate management, while others avoid that same pressure at all costs. On the other hand, jobs that are low-key and monotonous, such as assembly line positions in a factory, would cause high-energy people more stress than taking on corporate challenges.

The environment also plays a key role in stress. For example, a policeman patrolling a high crime area in an inner will experience more stress (generally) than one serving in a small rural town.

How Many are Stressed?

While different people stress for different reasons, the real question is how many workers are showing signs? In short, more than you may realize.

  • Financial pressures are impeding the job performance of nearly one out of four employees by their own admission, and almost as many employers report substantial losses in productivity as a result.
  • As many as 24 percent of American workers say they experience distractions at their jobs due to personal financial issues, according to a 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey on Employee Financial Wellness. (2)
  • Stress over finances at the workplace affects 60 percent of younger millennial workers—those born in the early 1980s through the early 2000s.
  • High-earning individuals making $100,000 a year or more also report experiencing financial stress at work, busting the myth that such problems are only experienced by low-income, unskilled employees.

The Cost to Employers

Employees distracted by financial pressures cost companies in several ways, and the impact on business revenue is quite severe. Heightened levels of anxiety hurt morale and prevent workers from producing at maximum efficiency.

Medical expenses and time off for injuries or illnesses due to financial stress are another major drain on a business’ bottom line, as are the costs of the various programs that help employees address these issues.

Absenteeism due to financial problems is another costly issue. Approximately one out of five workers report that they have left the job early or missed work altogether to attend to personal financial problems. In a survey conducted by Glassdoor and Red Bull, nearly half (48 percent) of the respondents admitted to being overly fatigued, causing them to be distracted and make mistakes during working hours.

Unfortunately, the trend is clear enough: The number of employed Americans suffering some form of financial stress is large and growing, and this is detracting from their job performance and hurting their employer’s bottom line.

The highest priority of any business is to create a bottom line that is both steadily growing and profitable, providing the funds necessary to continue operations and encourage company growth effectively.

Two very important components to the success of that formula are employee satisfaction and good job performance. If employees are stressed over personal financial issues, they tend to lose focus and perform poorly at work.

How Can Employers Help?

Employers are in a challenging position when it comes to effectively handling stress experienced by their employees. They require a workforce that performs at a high level, yet the challenges of poor financial education and decisions produce stress that is distracting and directly affects employee performance.

Employers can directly increase their bottom line through the provision of financial education and assistance programs for their employees.

To realize results, key areas should be targeted to have the greatest impact on helping employees achieve their financial goals, both now and in the future.

When workers receive financial education on and assistance with creating a budget, effectively managing debt, and utilizing available resources that produce greater savings, they overcome stressful financial hurdles, accumulate more savings, and are generally happier both at home and in the workplace.

Financial literacy programs are designed to meet pressing employee needs, and the financial planners that offer them normally get better retirement plan participation results as well. As people learn to take control of their day-to-day financial needs, pressing issues are more readily solved, relief is obtained, and money is freed up for more distant savings goals, which include retirement plans. The more support employees are given in this effort, the faster the process unfolds, and the sooner employers can see real results both in the performance of their workers and in the increase of their bottom lines.

As workers gain financial stability via reduced indebtedness and increased retirement savings, they will perform better on the job, take less time away from their duties, and realize better physical and mental health. Companies receive more return for wages, see production levels increase, and reduce health care and associated costs.

Mark Singer, CFP, AIF is a leader in the world of financial education. Mark is the author of three books, a frequent speaker at events, and is the creator of The Financial Literacy Toolbox, a virtual resource center to help financial advisors, wellness providers, and institutional retirement services firms change the conversation about financial wellness. Please complete this one-minute survey, to receive a free copy of Mark’s newest book “The New Financial Wellness: Changing the Conversation.”


1 University of Maryland Medical Center (2013). Stress. Available from umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/stress

2 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (April 2014). Employee Financial Wellness Survey. Available from http://www.pwc.com/us/en/private-company-services/publications/ financial-well-being-retirement-survey.jhtml

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