15 Aug 5 Strategies to Optimize Financial Wellness for a Remote Workforce
According to a recent study conducted by CreditWise, finances are the number one stressor for nearly three-quarters of Americans. When these issues come to work, productivity suffers, and employees feel less satisfied with their employment. Research has consistently shown that employee financial stress causes businesses $500 billion in lost productivity each year. That’s why so many organizations have begun offering financial wellness benefits to their employees. Internal data from an Enrich customer shows that after using the financial wellness program for one year:
- Financial stress decreased by 23%
- 32 percent more employees increased their savings for specific goals
- Those with at least three months of emergency savings increased by 27 percent
- 15 percent more employees contributed to the employer-sponsored retirement plan
- Maximum retirement plan contributions increased by 10 percent
- 28 percent more employees now pay off their credit cards each month
However, now with the pandemic, remote work has become the norm for many employees, so the question becomes: “How can we build a financial wellness program that addresses the needs of our remote workers?”
Is Remote Work Here To Stay?
Remote work is a phenomenon that has been growing steadily. In fact, in recent years, remote work had grown by 150% year over year, and in 2020, it was part of a ‘new normal’ for the majority of the work-force (at least temporarily). Not only is it driven by employees who want the flexibility and freedom that remote work offers, but it is also driven by companies as they see cost savings, higher productivity, and the ability to create a smaller carbon footprint. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, remote work became the norm. According to a Gallup poll, the number of remote workers before the pandemic was about 25 percent but increased to 62 percent by the first of April.
Now, as restrictions ease across the United States, many companies are considering long-term remote work policies. For instance, Nationwide plans to work from the office on only four main corporate campuses, allowing all other employees to work from home. A Global Workplace Analytics survey found that 77 percent of employees want to continue working from home. Although there are many benefits to remote work, organizations that embrace this practice still need to consider the health and well-being of their employees.
Why the Financial Health of Remote Employees Matters More Than Ever
Gallup did extensive research on people living in 150 countries around the world.7 What they found were five interconnected elements of wellbeing:
These elements affect everything from health to happiness to job performance. When employees are thriving, they are engaged and productive, adapt well to change, and have fewer sick days. That’s why offering wellness, including financial wellness, to remote employees, is so critical. Unfortunately, according to Gallup, just 1 in 14 employees in the U.S. thrives in all areas. To help your remote employees thrive, your financial wellness program needs to be inclusive. In other words, it can’t be aimed solely at in-office workers. On the other hand, the program cannot focus solely on those working remotely. Instead, the program should be geared to help all employees, regardless of where or when they work, become financially well. Here are some key elements to consider when designing such a program.
If you want to know what your remote employees need in a financial wellness program, ask. You can do this through surveys and assessments to all employees, making sure that you include those elements most sought after by employees. While you’re at it, also ask remote employees how they would prefer to learn about financial wellness offerings. This will help your organization determine the best way to spend money on this benefit.
Communicate and Foster Connections
One of the best ways to get employees involved in financial wellness is to foster connections. However, when companies have remote employees, they need to think about how these connections occur. These individuals do not hang out in the break room, nor are they often considered to be part of committees to champion the program. Although they are not in the office, remote workers can still be part of the process. The use of technology, such as IM, FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype, can bring remote workers into the office for webinars and presentations. And don’t forget about social media. This is a great medium for keeping remote employees up-to-date about financial wellness initiatives. Finally, when it comes to communication, think carefully about your word choices. You don’t want remote workers to feel excluded.
Financial wellness isn’t just about retirement and contributions to the employer-sponsored plan. Although this is a needed element, employees seek information about a wide number of financial issues, including:
- Healthcare expenses
- Student loans
- Buying a home
- Identity theft
Financial wellness programs need to not only address these needs but consider how to deliver these needs to both in-office and remote workers.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
The link between stress and finances is strong. In fact, of stressful situations, three of the top four relate to finances. And remote employees often experience even more stress than their in-office peers due to loneliness and isolation, trying to balance work/home life and knowing when to end their day. The best financial wellness programs for remote employees understand this connection and offer seamless interaction between physical and mental wellness programs and financial education programs.
Make It Fun
One of the best ways to spur engagement no matter where an employee is located is to make sure that the financial wellness program is fun and interesting. Studies show that gamification increases participation, motivation, and engagement. More importantly, gamification leads to more repeat use and learning more. Some fun gamification elements include:
As your workforce changes, you need to look be sure to change your financial wellness benefits to adapt to the needs of remote employees.