By now, you’re probably no stranger to the phrase ‘cost-of-living crisis’, as it seems to have taken over from the pandemic’s position at the forefront of public interest. Coined in reference to a nationwide decrease of ‘real’ disposable incomes, the cost-of-living crisis is likely to be a huge factor of your workforce’s everyday life. As we move away from the immediate impact of the pandemic, you will have noticed that you’re now paying more for necessities such as household bills and food, which is beginning to impact many people’s mental health.
The Mental Health Foundation recently published their report; ‘Mental health and the cost-of-living crisis report: another pandemic in the making?’ Within this, they conducted a UK-wide survey which showed that people are experiencing higher anxiety, stress and hopelessness as a result of their current financial situation.
In the report, they explain that the most crucial action to support good public mental health will be financial support schemes that prevent people from experiencing poverty and financial stress. With this in mind, they laid out four points of action that the government should consider going forward. These are:
- Providing more support to community social networks, resources and resilience;
- Assessing the mental health impact of all government decisions that are made in relation to the cost-of-living crisis and implementing any assessments that are needed;
- Making sure that essential service providers (e.g., energy companies etc.) and creditors have policies and procedures that underpin a compassionate response to customers experiencing financial strain; and
- Ensuring that frontline workers know how to respond effectively to the mental health effects that are caused by financial stress and strain.
How can employers help?
The cost-of-living crisis is likely to have an impact on your workforce. Now, more than ever, it’s important to emphasise the support your company has in place for employees. As well as this, if you haven’t already, now would be a great opportunity to outline a plan of action for your company’s cost-of-living support.
To begin with, you could review some of the support you already have in place, such as reward strategies and company benefits. You may already have a strong system in place, but employees might not be aware of how to access it. Publicising this to your workforce from the beginning of employment and then routinely throughout may encourage more of your team to take advantage of what you have to offer.
Similarly, it could be a good idea to use the opportunity to review the company’s financial wellbeing policy. This is an acknowledgment of the role that you play, as an employer, in your workforce’s financial wellbeing. According to the CIPD, your financial wellbeing policy should at include, at the least:
- Signposting to financial wellbeing advice;
- Targeted financial education support at key moments in working lives;
- Revising benefits packages to include finance-friendly initiatives;
- Implementing flexible working policies to include different needs;
- Giving security over hours and helping employees to progress into higher-paid roles; and
- Committing to paying all employees at least the Real Living Wage.
At times like this, it’s important to be sensitive to the wellbeing of your employees. It would be worthwhile ensuring that your line managers have received adequate training on how the cost-of-living crisis may impact their team’s morale and welfare.
You should aim for your working environment to be one where employees are empowered to ensure their voices are heard, whether it be via reaching out for support, or voicing opinions on how the company could support them better. Building on this, it could be a good idea to use the opportunity to develop a communication strategy, which will help to establish trust between managers and employees, creating a dialogue between the two.
Eleanor Taylor, People and Culture Manager at EKW Group added:
“As always one of my top priorities is ensuring that my employees mental health is supported fully, having an open-door policy to talk about any issues including the cost-of-living crisis will remain a main focus for myself.
Sharing knowledge, or little hints and tips throughout the office around cutting costs also gets people talking and the feeling of being alone at this time diminished.”
It may seem like we’ve moved from one unprecedented time to another, going from months of lockdowns to a financial crisis. It can be difficult to navigate supporting your employees at times such as these, so if you’re looking for further advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Eleanor Taylor at: [email protected].
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