Canadian organizations could benefit by increasing employee financial wellness initiatives
Ottawa, November 1, 2017—Many Canadians continue to struggle with high debt levels and some feel they have insufficient savings for the future. As Financial Literacy Month gets underway, new research by The Conference Board of Canada suggests that Canadians’ workplace productivity may be affected by stress surrounding their personal finances and employers have a role to play in improving their financial wellness.
“Although many Canadians have adequate financial literacy, manage their resources responsibly, and have a retirement plan in place, there are some who face challenges in one or all of these areas, causing them stress and anxiety,” said Louis Thériault, Vice-President, Industry Strategy and Public Policy, The Conference Board of Canada. “Financial stress can translate into diminished productivity in the workplace making it more than just a personal issue.”
- More than a quarter of Canadians (28 per cent) report that they sometimes struggle to keep up with their financial commitments or are having real financial problems.
- When employees experience stress and anxiety about their financial affairs, they may become less engaged and productive.
- Seventy-four per cent of Canadian employers feel that they have a responsibility to help their employees with their financial wellness.
The Conference Board’s Money on the Mind: Profile of Canadians’ Financial Wellness and Impacts on Individuals, Business and Society provides an in-depth profile of Canadians’ financial health and well being. While among the best in the world, a significant minority are still unequipped with the knowledge necessary to make sound financial decisions.
“Financial matters are a key source of stress for employees and can impact their physical and mental health, which can be costly for employers—from higher rates of absenteeism to lower productivity,” said Dr. Marie-Hélène Pelletier, Assistant Vice-President, Workplace Health, Group Benefits, Sun Life Financial Canada. “Now, more than ever, is the time for employers to build a financial health component into their overall health strategy.”
More than a quarter of Canadians (28 per cent) report that they sometimes struggle to keep up with their financial commitments or are having real financial problems. For some, recurring expenses and relatively high debt loads make it difficult to prepare and stick to a budget. Notably, approximately one quarter of Canadians who report financial struggles are dipping into their retirement for extra funds.
And not all Canadians are ready for their retirement. Just over 7 in 10 Canadians (72.5 per cent) report that they are preparing financially for retirement. Among those who are unprepared, not being able to afford retirement savings and investments is a frequently cited reason. This could be related to increasingly high debt loads, consumption patterns, or the high cost of living leaving little room for saving.
When employees experience stress and anxiety about their financial affairs, they may become less engaged and productive which can have a negative impact on their employer’s bottom line. Research by Sun Life Financial found that 28 per cent of Canadians say financial health issues have distracted them at work in the last year. Meanwhile, 11 per cent say that issues related to financial health have caused them to miss at least one day of work in the last year. Canadian organizations appear to be taking note.
Money on the Mind: The Design and Impact of Employer-Sponsored Financial Wellness Programs found that 74 per cent of Canadian employers feel that they have a responsibility to help their employees with their financial wellness. Nearly one-fifth of respondents have a formal comprehensive financial wellness strategy in place, while an additional 37 per cent provide several initiatives and programs not part of a formal strategy.
While many Canadian organizations are beginning to expand their financial education beyond their pension and retirement savings programs, most programming being offered by employers focuses strictly on information dissemination, such as webinars or information booklets. This report suggests that employers provide more interactive programming, including face-to-face initiatives, which may be more effective in helping employees achieve financial wellness.
The two briefings in this series, Money on the Mind: Profile of Canadians’ Financial Wellness and Impacts on Individuals, Business and Society and Money on the Mind: The Design and Impact of Employer-Sponsored Financial Wellness Programs, were sponsored by Sun Life Financial.