Do employers in the USA care more about their employees’ wellbeing than employers in the UK?
90% of large and midsized companies in the US are now offering financial wellness programmes as an employee benefit, according to a recent survey. In contrast however, a recent report out by the CIPD has revealed that in the UK, financial wellbeing is a relatively neglected area of organisations’ health and wellbeing activity.
There is a significant difference between the two countries, but why? Do employers in the US really care more about the wellbeing of their employees? Or could it be that they have realised that this aspect of employee wellbeing can provide the foundations for their other wellbeing initiatives? Or, have they realised that to invest some time and effort in this area is not just good for their employees but it’s also good for business from a commercial perspective?
What they are likely to have realised is that our wellbeing is very much linked. There is no physical wellbeing without mental and emotional wellbeing and there is no mental and emotional wellbeing without financial wellbeing.
In the UK over the last few years, I believe that financial wellbeing has taken the back seat whilst employers focus on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Mental health awareness, and the reduction of stigma attached to it, has come a long way but like everything, we could be doing more, and I believe we should also be tackling the causes with more vigour. Why? 86% of respondents to a Money and Mental Health survey of nearly 5,500 people with experience of mental health problems said that their financial situation had made their mental health problems worse.
It is quite common for employers to firefight problems once they have occurred. But it can be difficult for employers to justify spending time and money on addressing a problem that is not visible or obvious right now.
We know that HR is a busy department and, in my experience, there is often something else more urgent to do, with financial wellbeing subsequently being pushed down the list. I have seen work in this area get started during a rare moment when the HR department has the bandwidth to think about it, only to see the momentum fizzle out as inevitably a short-term urgent issue steals their focus.
When is the best time to address employee financial wellbeing? Now of course! I would urge you not to wait for this to become a priority on the urgent list, as it may be a bit too late for a number of employees. I would suggest if you can see any tiny piece of evidence that financial wellbeing problems exist, the real extent of the hidden stress will be many times greater.
So, I go back to my original question. Do US firms care more about their employees than us here in the UK?
I don’t believe that for 1 minute. But what they have done, is they have come to the realisation earlier than us; that from a commercial perspective it makes a lot of sense to get on with it. The UK moving in the right direction, but we still have some catching up to do.
Each month I run a webinar called “How to create an effective Workplace Financial Wellbeing Strategy”. The webinar is designed to help employers kick start a financial wellbeing strategy even when there is little or no time, budget and resource.