tiny figures pushing giant piggybank up steep hill As they come back to work over the next fewweeks and months, employers need to face reality: Their employeesneed to be better prepared for the unexpected. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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The coronavirus pandemic came out of nowhere, jumped from thetop rope, and body-slammed the already-vulnerable Americanemployee. Nobody saw it coming. And now, four months into thisthing? Nearly 43 million people have filed for unemployment.

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It didn't have to be like this for them. They could have hadenough in savings to get them through a layoff. They could haveeliminated the debt that's eating into their ability to financiallysurvive something like this. They could have had the peace of mindthat comes with following a budget.

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Related: 5 cities with the biggest, smallest increases inpost-pandemic unemployment rates

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Before coronavirus, too many companies viewed financial wellnessas a nice add-on benefit—strictly optional. But now? Well,America's 40 million furloughed and laid-off employees prove thatit is essential. The time for just checking the financialwellness box or putting it off is over.

Squaring up to employees' situations

The coronavirus put a magnifying glass on a huge problem:Americans aren't financially prepared to handle even an averageemergency, let alone a global pandemic.

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Before it all hit, Americans were drowning in debt and spentmore than they earned. They didn't have enough in savings or forretirement. As a result, the pandemic was like a gut punch topeople who were already doubled over with debt and falling behind.And many of them were or are your employees. We're all too familiarwith these alarming statistics:

It's painfully obvious that employees need financial wellnessnow more than ever. So, as they come back to work over the next fewweeks and months, employers need to face reality: Their employeesneed to be better prepared for the unexpected.

What can you do to help?

As an employer, you don't need to hear that your employees arethe engine that makes your company run. But you do need to hearthat helping them achieve financial wellness after a legitimatefinancial crisis is one of the best ways to make sure both youremployees and your business fully recover. Why? Because employeeswho are stressed about money cost your company in lostproductivity, absenteeism and turnover.6 They need guidance as theymove forward from this. And they need to know that you care.

Make a plan

Look, a lot of employees are scared they're going to lose theirjobs. And a lot of employers are wondering if they'll be able tokeep their doors open. Nobody is really sure how long all this isgoing to last. So, the best thing you can do for your team is givethem the tools and resources they need to be financially preparedfor the unexpected. That gives them hope in an uncertain time likethis.

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People are asking what the future looks like after COVID-19. Butin many ways, the future will be what you make it. As an employerright now, if you're not learning about your employees and how tohelp them in the midst of a financial crisis, then you won't beable to give them what they need. They need to hear "We will getthrough this" from you. And the best way to say it is through afinancial wellness program that meets them where they are and walkswith them every step of the way to putting the pandemic in thepast.

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Brian Hamilton is vice president ofSmartDollar, a financial wellness program from RamseySolutions. As a part of our response to thisfinancial crisis, SmartDollar is giving away freeresources for employers to share with their teams.

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