I know I need to do my job... but my life is falling apart!

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If bosses could read the minds of their employees, how much of them would hear a refrain like that? As adults, most of us are pretty good at the fine art of compartmentalization. My husband often says that the key to my professional success has been that I can compartmentalize like nobody's business - which seems in some ways like a contradiction given that I feel strongly that there is no “work/life” balance- there is only one integrated life. Having said that, sometimes the proverbial stuff hits the fan in your personal life, but you know that you have to put on a brave face and just deal with the demands of the job. It’s your obligation. It’s also your livelihood and whatever is going on in the background isn’t usually going to be benefited by you also losing your job...so you press on.

As an employer, what can you do to help? Many bosses and companies have the best of intentions but they also feel somewhat helpless- realistically, they can’t be a counselor, clergy and doctor to their employees. But if we break this down into the issues that people have, at the risk of oversimplifying, it usually falls into the following categories:

1. Money issues - according to a 2017 PWC report, nearly 1 in 3 employees reports that personal finances have been a distraction at work.

2. Relationship issues - divorce, children having problems, aging parents etc - at some point in life everyone is going to have some sort of emotionally charged personal struggle. It’s called life.

3. Health - your health, your family member’s health - someone is going to get sick and it’s going to be a problem. And let’s not forget mental health, addiction issues - there are lots of things that can fit into this bucket.

So the good news is that most companies are doing a better job on the health front. Certainly not all, but between government mandated disability leave and FMLA etc, there is a lot that most people can leverage when there is a health problem for them or their loved ones.  Increasingly people are selecting their employer on the basis of the medical coverage they provide, which can be smart depending on your age and family structure (young, single people can perhaps take more risk with limited coverage- but it is still a roulette wheel - older people or people with kids need to take this really seriously).

Relationship issues are something that employers can’t do much about - except to allow for flexibility with some time. In actuality, most people don’t want to air too much of their personal issues at work, but sometimes a little extra support is needed. For those of us who have a.) been divorced b.) raised teenagers who tested the limits c.) existed on this planet for more than about 5 years - there is going to be stuff to deal with, and if you are lucky (as I have been) you have a boss where you can say, “I am going through some stuff right now, can I get a few hours this afternoon away from work to deal with it?” and they respect that. My experience is that this has less to do with company policy and more to do with whether your boss is a decent human being, although, in my experience, there is usually a correlation between company culture, policy and the decency of your boss.

So what about money? You aren’t going to get paid more just because you have financial problems, because we are still dealing in reality. So what can a company do to alleviate the financial stresses of their employees? First, a few facts about the impact of financial stress on the job (again taken from the PWC Employee Financial Wellness Survey of 2017):

  • 46% of those who are distracted by their finances at work, say they spend 3 hours or more at work each week, thinking about or dealing with issues related to their personal finances.

  • 51% of Millennials and 57% of Gen X withdraw retirement funds for unexpected expenses.

  • 22% of Millennials and 18% of Gen X withdraw retirement funds for medical bills.

Employees experiencing financial stress are less productive and in worse financial shape than other employees:

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Employees impacted by student loans continue to be in worse financial shape compared to other employees:

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More and more employers are making financial wellness programs a part of their health and wellness offerings- but effectively providing financial planning and advice affordably is a challenge. Human advisors can be great, but they are expensive- which is why they often charge upwards of $5,000 for a one-time financial plan. Realistically, that is not something employers can offer in scale.  

There is a solution - it’s Pefin, the world’s first AI financial advisor. Pefin was created using cutting edge technology to provide everyone- including employees! - trustworthy, personalized and financial advice, at their fingertips, 24/7. The good thing is that because Pefin is a fiduciary, and is focused on planning and advice, it isn’t about selling products, it is focused on actually giving people actionable advice that can help them answer the questions, and address the problems, in their financial lives. Most people have neither the time nor the expertise to do the complex modeling required to figure out how to achieve the things that matter most to them.  With Pefin, employers can provide answers - and that is good for the employee, which in turn makes them more productive - a virtuous cycle!

If you are an employer and would like to know more, visit us here. If you are an employee and wish you had this as a benefit, share this article with your boss, your head of HR or anyone else in the company that you think would be able to make this happen!

Jay Gopalakrishnan