One third of adults are currently stressed out over money
Kelley Keehn, the founder of Money Wise Workplaces, best-selling author of 11 books, and a renowned keynote speaker, is a 25 year veteran in the financial literacy, empowerment and wellness space. In a candid conversation with HRD, she sheds light on why financial wellness, despite being immensely valuable, remains one of the least understood employee benefits.
"Well, I think because it seeps into every part of a person's life," Keehn tells HRD. “Employees don't sleep well if they're worried about their finances. Their health suffers, their mental health can suffer, their whole life can separate - and they bring all of that to work."
The repercussions of financial stress are not just personal; they extend into the professional realm, affecting productivity and overall workplace morale. And financial stress is much more common that you might think. According to recent research from CBC found that a third of adults are currently stressed out over money – and that’s including households that bring in between $60,000 to $100,000 a year.
"The number one thing I hear from people is even if the workplace has great programs, they don't know where to start,” says Keehn. “And they don't know who or what to trust.”
Keehn’s program aims to bridge this gap, helping employees navigate their financial challenges and find creative ways to manage their money better.
“There’s always ways to find more money creatively,” she tells HRD.
The benefits of such programs are manifold. Not only do they provide employees with the tools and knowledge to manage their finances better, but they also instil a sense of hope and competence. Keehn believes that when employees feel financially secure, they sleep better, have healthier relationships with their families, and bring a more positive attitude to work.
“It gives them that level of competence and knowledge that I really manifests as sleeping better at night, having better conversations with your spouse and your kids,” she says. This, in turn, fosters a more supportive and understanding work environment.
According to PWC’s 2023 Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 60% of full-time employees are stressed about their finances – that’s more than were worried during the pandemic. And so, in an organizational sense, how do HR professionals ensure that their company’s financial wellness practices are up to par? Keehn has some sector insights up her sleeve.
“Number one is looking at how are your employees going to consume this information,” she tells HRD. She emphasizes the importance of accessibility, suggesting that companies offer programs that employees can engage with during work hours, such as lunch and learn sessions. Additionally, on-demand learning modules can provide flexibility, allowing employees to access information at their convenience.
However, Keehn also cautions against programs that may have ulterior motives.
“You really want to make sure that your wellness program isn’t selling anything,” she warns. Drawing from her collaboration with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, their research suggests the pitfalls of programs that promote specific financial products. Such programs can backfire, eroding trust between employees and employers.
"It's really important that when you throw these types of programs into a workplace, employees really feel like they're not being sold, but supported."