Employers are increasingly turning to financial wellness programs as a means to various ends, not just retirement.
According to Aon Hewitt’s report “Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing,” 92 percent of employers are likely to expand their financial well-being programs beyond a focus on retirement; in fact, 86 percent are likely to tackle the link between financial and physical/emotional well-being.
While it hasn’t exactly dominated the workplace yet, the well-being program is growing in reach and in breadth; while 34 percent of employers have an integrated wellbeing program that features both financial and physical well-being, 37 percent of employers are expanding their financial well-being program as a means of cutting medical costs. In addition, 78 percent of employers are likely to provide health care education and planning.
In an interview, Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt, said that the increasing focus on financial well-being is an outgrowth of what employers are seeing in the workplace: stress as a leading cause of medical issues and financial stress as a cause of stress.
As a means of reducing medical spending, employers are putting in financial well-being programs in the hope that less financially stressed employees will be healthier and more productive.
The report said, in fact, that the top initiative for employers this year is a focus on employee well-being, with 59 percent very likely and another 33 percent moderately likely to focus on the financial well-being of workers in ways that extend beyond retirement decisions.
Even though financial well-being “has been a hot topic for the past several years,” the report said, 60 percent of employers believe that its importance has increased at their organization over the last 24 months.
Add to that the fact that 78 percent think financial well-being will help increase employee engagement and 57 percent hope that such initiatives will cut the time their employees spend at work, or being absent from work, dealing with personal financial issues — up from 44 percent in 2016 — and it’s no wonder that suddenly there’s a lot of interest around the subject as a means of improving drags on productivity.
Since another Aon Hewitt study found that 49 percent of employees admit to spending time at work dealing with personal financial issues, it’s no wonder this is an area of concern for employers — particularly since Austin explained that employers can be losing 1–2 percent of payroll to that time lost.
“It’s easy to do some calculations on this,” he said, pointing out that 1–2 hours a week per person out of a 40-hour work week “can be hundreds of millions of dollars for a large corporation.”