In my last blog, I discussed how employee stress is costing companies a bundle. But what is the most common cause of anxiety in the workplace? In many cases, legal issues and financial problems are the source of employee stress.
In fact, nearly two-fifths of HR professionals say employees have missed work due to a financial emergency in the past year, according to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey. And it’s really no wonder why. The majority of employees don’t have a lawyer on retainer to help them tackle unexpected legal issues; and many of them don’t have a CPA or financial planner to help them manage their finances.
The good news is there are innovative benefits programs designed to help employees deal with financial and legal stress. Here are just a few examples:
- Financial Counseling: In an American Psychological Association survey, 73% of respondents cited money as a significant source of stress in their lives. This is no surprise considering an estimated 1 in 3 adults with a credit history (77 million people) are so far behind on debt payments, their account has been put “in collections,” according to an Urban Institute study. A financial counseling program is the perfect solution for cash-strapped employees. Through these programs, employees receive confidential advice about debt consolidation, health care expenses, credit cards and more.
- Budgeting Programs: Many employees are stressed about money simply because they don’t know how to budget. In fact, only 32 percent of Americans prepare a detailed written or computerized budget each month, according to a Gallup poll. An employer sponsored budgeting program can teach employees how to create and stick to a budget and determine how spending decisions today will affect their financial health tomorrow.
- Legal Programs: From civil lawsuits to child custody cases to divorces, employees are contending with increasingly stressful and expensive legal issues. The average cost of divorce in the U.S. has mushroomed to $15,000, and lawyers cost an average of $285 an hour these days. Employers can help ease this tension with a legal benefits program. These programs offer employees free or discounted rates on professional legal services.
I was recently chatting with our VP of Human Resources, Sandy Heard, about why these financial and legal programs are so important. Over the years, Sandy has dealt with many employees who wanted to take out a loan against their 401(k). When dealing with these employees, Sandy tries to explain a loan is a temporary band aid—not a long-term solution. Sadly, the majority of employees need the loan because they are behind on expenses, so it basically comes down to poor financial planning. She encourages them to revisit their finances by talking to a counselor and using a budgeting tool—all programs we offer our employees at New Benefits.
Oftentimes, employees also go to Sandy with legal issues. She says it’s difficult for her to help, given she has no legal background. She often directs these employees to our discount legal program. This program gives them access to a qualified network of attorneys for one-on-one consultations, legal document review, welfare and INS issues, representation in small claims court, wills, traffic tickets, bankruptcy, divorce, spousal and child support.
Scientist and stress expert Hans Selye once said, “It’s not stress that kills us; it is our reaction to it.” In my opinion, the best way for employers to react to stress is to help their employees manage it. In the end, these stress-reducing programs will boost employee productivity and morale, shrink healthcare costs and increase the employer’s bottom line.
— Marti Powles, COO
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