Financial well-being in the workplace: An equity perspective

August 8, 2022 · NCQA Communications

By Neepa Patel, CEO of WellRight, and Vanessa Guzman, president of SmartRise Health

 Money has been called the root of all evil — and right now, it’s the root of a lot of stress and anxiety for employees in the U.S.

As inflation rises and a possible recession looms, many people are feeling financially squeezed. The Willis Towers Watson 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey found 43% of employees have difficulty paying for one or more basic needs, and 3 in 10 live paycheck to paycheck.

And because employees are whole people, they bring that stress and anxiety into the workplace. In fact, 18% of employees say financial worries negatively impact their productivity at work, according to the 2022 PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey. It can also pose a retention risk — if people feel they aren’t being paid fairly, they’re more likely to leave.

Employers are taking notice, recognizing financial well-being as a critical pillar of whole-person wellness and incorporating it into their overall wellness programs. The next step is to approach any financial well-being offerings from a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) mindset.

Creating an equitable financial wellness program

Business people working in the officeOrganizations that are committed to DEI foster a culture where all employees feel represented, have equal access to offerings and benefits and feel like their differences are accepted. That attitude should be integrated throughout all aspects of the organization, including any financial well-being programs.

Building an equitable financial wellness program starts by meeting employees where they are — and depending on the employee population, they could be all over the place. People face varied financial challenges based on their lived experiences and societal factors.

For instance, women earn 84% of what men earn on average. Members of the LGBTQ+ community have unique financial needs, and people with disabilities face different financial challenges from people who are not disabled.

Incorporating financial wellness questions into a health assessment as part of an overall well-being program can give a baseline on employees’ relationships with money. Surveying employee resource groups can then give a more in-depth look at what specific subsections of the employee population desire in terms of financial help.

Every organization’s financial wellness may look different, especially if they’re based on their own employee needs. At Tidelands Health, employees can meet biannually with a qualified, experienced financial planner as part of the South Carolina-based system’s wellness program, according to an article in Healthcare Innovation. And they take advantage of it — Tidelands has close to a 95% acceptance rate and a 95% approval rating.

Other features of a wellness program with equitable financial well-being offerings could include:

  • Ongoing compensation evaluation with an eye on equity, market trends and responsibilities
  • Communication about career pathways
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Financial education to support making informed financial decisions
  • Education support or help with student loan refinancing
  • Access to social and community resources as appropriate

The good news is, this work is already underway at many organizations in the U.S. Nearly a quarter (24%) of employers that responded to a Willis Towers Watson survey said they already assess their financial well-being program for consistency with inclusion and diversity values, and an additional 33% said they’re considering doing so.

We’re striving to get 100% of organizations to build an equitable financial well-being program, so employees can be less stressed, more productive and more engaged in their work.

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