The Impact of Financial Stress on Job Productivity

December 06, 2011

Stress is a part of life and isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing.  Personally, I prefer less stress.  But, in small doses stress can help us perform better under pressure and provide the necessary motivation to perform important tasks at home and at work.  As a busy financial planner with countless deadlines, assignments, travel requirements, and client service related demands, my work-life balance is always a challenge.  Thankfully, I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to help others improve their relationship with money and admit that I do indeed enjoy the sometimes chaotic life of multitasking. 

Recently, my personal stress levels were aided tremendously by a Thanksgiving holiday week long cruise throughout the Caribbean.  But as fun as it is to reminisce about laying on deck in a lounge chair, a chef with endless food buffets, and carefree strolls down white sandy beaches, the end of a vacation always marks the return to work – and yes, it also allows for the return of a little work related stress.  Fortunately for me, stress has always been a good motivator and our company’s culture and wellness initiatives help keep stress levels from becoming overwhelming.  However, for many of the employees that call the Financial Finesse helpline or attend one of our financial workshops, stress can create significant problems both at home and in the workplace.

According to the American Psychological Association, money, work and the economy remain the most common sources of stress in our country.   Financial stress is significantly associated with poor money management skills.  There is also a very direct relationship between the degree of financial stress someone faces and their ability to manage their expenses, control their debt, and pay their bills on time.  In fact, Financial Finesse’s most recent research on the trends of employee financial issues indicated that nearly 21% of employees reported “high” or “overwhelming” levels of financial stress.  With financial problems being cited as one of the leading causes of stress in America, today’s workplace is greatly affected by employees who are experiencing financial problems.  Despite the fact that these problems may be primarily related to financial concerns, they have drastic implications for all other areas of life.  Common side effects of financial stress include unhealthy behaviors like smoking, weight gain, and alcohol and drug abuse.  The direct link financial stress has on employees’ health and overall wellness also can be linked to problems such as depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.

When financial stressors become overwhelming, it is not surprising to see how the associated financial strain can easily rear its ugly head in the workplace.  Research suggests that job productivity is significantly decreased due to financial stress.  In addition, stress is often cited as a leading reason that people miss work.  In addition to causing people to miss work through increased absenteeism that is unplanned, stress can have a negative impact on those who do show up for work.  Financially stressed employees can become easily distracted by personal financial struggles, are more prone to workplace accidents, have a high risk of health related problems, and are a high turnover risk.

So what can employers do to help their employees reduce financial stress?

The direct link between financial stress, work performance and overall productivity of employees supports the use of financial wellness initiatives designed to support members of the workforce as they experience stressful financial events.  Financial education can also be used in a proactive manner to create positive financial habits that decrease the likelihood for financial problems that lead to unmanageable stress levels.  The costs related to financial stress can be damaging to both the employee and the employer.  The good news is that financial education initiatives and financial planning guidance can help employees identify the most effective solutions to stressful life events that relate to money matters.  Financial wellness programs improve the financial behaviors of employees and job productivity.  Stress may be a way of life for us all, but there are effective workplace solutions available to help keep financial stress from becoming unmanageable.