Employee Uncertainty About the Financial Road Ahead. Here’s How You Can Help.

Your employees may be feeling a fair amount of money worries. Financial wellness programs at work can help empower them.

Who would have thought we’d ever experience a pandemic in our lifetime? If you asked your employees, the answer would have probably been not ever. The past few years have shown that the unexpected can become reality rather quickly and has caused employees feelings of anxiety and uncertainty around their finances. What the past two years has brought to light is the need for workplace education programs that build employee confidence about their financial futures.


While employees have begun to return to the office, they are struggling to find the balance between work and home life. Not only that, many employees are struggling to rebuild savings that took a substantial hit. 


As employees try to navigate the pressures of work productivity and financial stability, it’s more important than ever for employers to “wrap their arms tightly around” employees, says Tom Conlon, Head of Retirement Sales, Morgan Stanley at Work. “At Morgan Stanley at Work, we don’t just talk about money. We talk about how to take care of your people,” Conlon says. “Your employees are on a really complicated financial journey. As an employer, you need to be meeting them wherever they are and shepherding them toward their goals.” 



One of the Things on Employees Minds Right Now: Money

Workers have long had anxiety about their financial lives, whether it’s paying off student loan debt, dealing with emergency expenses, buying a first home, financially supporting family members, or saving enough for retirement. Experiencing a pandemic has worsened these anxieties. According to a study conducted by Betterment for Business, 76% of employees surveyed stated that the pandemic caused them to reexamine their financial situation.1



These worries can significantly affect productivity. In fact, employees’ collective ability to focus has been taxed in ways you never could have imagined. In the latest PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey 76% of stressed employees said financial worries have had a negative impact on their work performance and 55% spend 3 plus hours each week at work dealing with their finances.

Your employees may be having a hard time staying motivated, sharp and on task because of all the questions they’re worried about. Questions like:


  • Should I be worried about my 401(k) plan account balance?
  • I’m strapped for cash. Should I make a withdrawal from my 401(k)?
  • My emergency savings are depleted. How would I pay for any unplanned expenses?
  • Should I tap my vested equity compensation for emergency cash?
  • How will I afford my children’s education?
  • Is now the right time to purchase a new home? Can I still afford it?
  • Is it time to downsize and sell my home?
  • How much debt is safe to incur?
  • Should I try to get a deferment on student loans or other debt?


Whether they’re working remotely or safely returning to the office, your employees are bringing this stress to work with them each day. Morgan Stanley at Work has some suggestions for how you can ameliorate some of this stress and help your people refocus their energies.


5 Ways You Can Foster Financial Health and Well-Being Right Now

A strategic financial wellness program can help to increase focus, work satisfaction and loyalty, which in turn improves employee retention and productivity. These things are true during the best of times and even more so in current times. Consider that 65% of employees polled said they expect their employer to offer more financial wellness support than it did before the pandemic.1


Here are five tips to consider.


1. Ensure that your financial wellness program is holistic, attuned, and responsive.  

Each employee is having a slightly different experience with working intermittently or back to full-time in the office. Some employees may be thriving whereas others may be under intense pressure and dealing with any number of distractions. There is no longer one cohesive “workplace,” and the financial wellness tools you offer employees should be both highly personalized and flexible to accommodate the variety of situations and needs employees have right now.


2. Use all available technology to offer financial education programs.

Find different ways to execute those lunch-and-learns, webinars, off-sites and other opportunities for employees to learn and connect. If you haven’t invested in upgrading and enhancing your virtual technology platforms, now is the time. It’s also a good time to survey your employees about how they like to learn new things and how they like to receive information. Ask about the channels and tactics they are most receptive to and the frequency of touchpoints.

3. Facilitate mentorships and one-on-one coaching.

Whether an employee is still defining their goals and building a foundation or creating a financial plan to achieve those goals, they need guidance. A mentor or financial coach can provide the safe space they need to recalibrate and adjust. “People don’t want to stop moving forward in their career. They want to be able to continue connecting one-on-one with those who can offer advice and mentorship,” says Laura Assomull, Head of Financial Wellness Business Development, Morgan Stanley at Work. Virtual sessions, coffee meetings, affinity groups: it’s important to continue offering these things and to motivate your employees to take advantage of them.


4. Help employees mine all types of health and wellness resources.

Make sure your people understand the full scope of support the company offers to minimize their stress levels,” says Assomull. This can include everything from reminding them of their mental health benefits, mediation resources and employee network groups to an HSA account and a variety of benefits through employee assistance programs. Employees impacted by financial worries are more likely to take action if their employer offers incentives.4


5. If you have a financial wellness program, understand how employees are engaging with it.

“For companies offering financial wellness benefits, make sure your program is well activated, that your employees know how to access the full offering including digital libraries. In order to understand the program’s impact, you should measure everything you can,” Conlon says. Your data, in the form of engagement and analytics reports, tells a powerful story about what your employees most need. Providing a financial wellness portal and knowing exactly how your people are engaging with your financial wellness portal will help you figure out which messaging is the most effective, which content they are reading or interacting with, and the impact it’s having on their financial health.


Taking Care of Your People

Beyond simply providing a paycheck, you have the chance to provide unique solutions and new ways for employees to continue setting and reaching financial and life goals. In other words, you have the chance to take care of the people who are working so hard for you right now.


And remember, during this unprecedented time in the history of work, you don’t have to go it alone. Morgan Stanley at Work is here for you and your team to answer any questions and share ideas for how you can help your employees lead better financial lives.