As an employer, it benefits a business as a whole to remain mindful of the impact stress can have when an employee is navigating financial challenges. In a survey conducted by Metlife, they found that "69% of employees say they worry about financial stress at work multiple times a week. 44% say they worry about money every single day. Additionally, new research found that 52% of U.S. employees are more concerned about finances than any other aspect of their well-being — including physical, mental or social health." Times of stress can impact an employee’s focus, productivity, and overall morale if there is limited support in place. While it can feel like there is nothing supervisors can do, support can take many different forms and evolve to fit specific situations.
Generally, reminders about mental health resources offered to the company, encouraging honest self check ins and establishing the language needed to correctly identify stress are productive ways to support team members dealing with issues outside of a manager's purview.
When employees are worried about money, it can be challenging to focus on anything else. Team leaders may notice slow downs in project completions from reliable team members or have trouble reorienting discussions that seem to wander off topic and become disjointed. This can make supervisors feel helpless that they can’t assist their team members when they are showing signs of struggling. However, there are non-financial ways to be supportive, starting with simply being aware.
Compassion can come into play when assigning projects, delegating hours or setting deadlines. Encouraging team members to be honest about where they are mentally increases the likelihood that they will feel comfortable enough to come forward when their situations at home are in danger of affecting their work life. It can be hard to “leave it at the door” when something as serious as financial wellness is weighing on an employee, and being understanding is a supportive way to assist.
A Step at a Time
Looking six or seven steps down the line on a project is something productive teams can usually do as second nature. During seasons of worry, however, it can be hard to look toward the future. Every aspect of their work can seem uncertain and be distracting and daunting during projects.
Taking projects one completion point at a time can be a piecemeal way to support teams who feel a bit overwhelmed by looking too far forward. Allowing for deadlines to be discussed and completed one project at a time can minimize mistakes and prevent adding stress to an already vulnerable workforce.
A stimulating way to support mental wellness during these deadline discussions is to encourage self check-ins where employees are honest and communicative about their mental ability at the time to ensure that they are being productive in a way that is sustainable. Sustainability is key during times of uncertainty to prevent burnout and ensure that peace can be found once the situation reaches equilibrium again.
Knowing the signs of stress and burnout is a useful tool for team leaders navigating financial stress in their employees. It is not always immediately apparent to an individual that their performance has changed, but supervisors will often see the whole workplace situation from a broader vantage point and can offer insights based on that perspective.
Team leaders can remain communicative about the signs of stress and offer reminders to employees about resources available to them. If the message is consistent that powering through can have adverse reactions while reaching out can at least offer some comfort for a time, employees might feel more inclined to utilize resources because of that encouragement.
Supervisors should also utilize those resources themselves so that their advice can come from personal experience. Being communicative that these resources are for everyone and that there is no shame in using them is a “lead by example” way employers can support employees as they navigate financial stress.
More than Money
While leading a workplace during times of financial stress presents a challenge, there are many non-financial ways that supervisors can support their employees and provide a working environment that is ready and capable of that support. Reminding employees about mental health resources, encouraging honest self check ins and establishing the ways that employees can self identify stress are compassionate ways to support team members dealing with issues outside of an employer’s control!