Finwell for the Whole Self

The work-from-home world has shattered the home/work barrier. It has opened the door into the personal lives of workers. Read how.

Seeing Is Believing

The sudden transition to working from home (WFH) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic opened the door (and employers’ eyes) to the daily living environments of workers and their families. With the quick shift to video conferencing, employers were forced to face a previously unknown and private area of their employees’ lives: their homes.

As one HR executive in a 2020 Morgan Stanley-sponsored workplace benefits survey said, our eyes have been opened to a hard truth: “I think that what [COVID] brought to the forefront is the thing that I think we know, but we don’t think about is that there are a lot of us who are just one paycheck away from being homeless. If you don’t have that steady income, the bills don’t stop.”

This realistic glimpse has added important context and deepened awareness of the need to provide benefits that care for the employee at work, as well as the person (and their loved ones) at home, or the "whole self".

Out of Sight but Top of Mind

Stress and doubt are insidious, and WFH conditions have many employees weary. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that 83% of employees are afraid of losing their jobs.¹ While your employees may feel secure, what about their families? The stress of a spouse, parent or adult child suddenly becoming unemployed can weigh heavily on a person. However, even in our remote world, you can still show employees they are valued; offering benefits cues greater security and less stress for many workers.

Settling into WFH

The antiquated workplace mantra “check your baggage at the door” went out the window in 2020 with the shift to remote work. Our WFH environment has replaced traditional offices with at-home work stations and, in many cases, kitchen tables, making it harder to leave the "at home" troubles at the office door. Although we all hope to see an end to the pandemic, many companies plan to maintain remote workforces. A third of companies believe that more than 50% of their workforce will continue to work remotely once the economy is fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.²

(W)holistic Solutions

While many employers feel that offering financial health benefits is the right thing to do, more and more are embracing solutions that support the whole self.

You may wonder, what exactly does "whole self" mean and how can you create a benefit for it? The whole self is precisely what you would imagine: all the personal and professional aspects that impact your employees’ wellbeing. Just think of the quick interruptions you encounter during WFH video conferences with employees—kids, pets, spouses, parents, etc. The people and things that show up in the background of a Zoom call are examples of the whole self, and they strongly impact the mental, physical, emotional and financial health of your employees.

Many companies already offer benefits to support the day-to-day, unexpected and long-term financial needs of their employees. Top financial health benefits include:

  • Health insurance
  • 401(k) plans
  • Paid sick leave
  • Life insurance
  • Health savings accounts (HSA)
  • Disability Insurance
  • Healthcare/dependent care flexible accounts

Looking Ahead

On the horizon for 2021, companies are planning to enhance their benefits by adding personalized coaching/credit counseling by financial professionals, child/eldercare assistance, emergency savings funds, financial apps/website and education savings plans.³ Additional benefits gaining traction for a wholistic solution include:

  • Financial education resources
  • Emergency savings funds
  • Greater access to equity compensation across employees
  • Student loan solutions that offer evaluation tools
  • Employer contributions toward student loans

We’re in This Together

The vantage point provided by 2020 has been an eye-opening experience that will undoubtedly have a lasting effect on financial health. As another HR executive said in our recent survey, “We believe that if we take care of our employees, they will take care of the business. We want to continue to push more or expand things that are going to support our employees and will drive better employee engagement.”

This realistic view has increased awareness of the depth and breadth of the challenges employees face on a daily basis. And while employers have known of these hardships in the past, they have never been as apparent as they are today. That might be why nearly a third of companies are planning to spend more on financial health benefits over the next two years in response to COVID-19. 4

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1Edelman. “20th Annual Edelman Trust Barometer.” January 2020.
2Morgan Stanley & Financial Health Network. “Financial Health Benefits in the Workplace.” Sept. 2020.
3Morgan Stanley & Financial Health Network. “Financial Health Benefits in the Workplace.” Sept. 2020.
4Morgan Stanley & Financial Health Network. “Financial Health Benefits in the Workplace.” Sept. 2020.


Information contained herein is based on data from sources considered to be reliable and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”) makes no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of data from sources outside of Morgan Stanley.

© 2021 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC. Member SIPC.

CRC# 3468142    03/2021