Two-thirds of U.S. adults recently surveyed by the American Psychological Association (APA) said that their general level of stress has increased in 2020, and around 8 in 10 respondents cited the coronavirus as a significant source of this stress. The latter is not surprising given the widespread disruptions caused by the pandemic and related containment efforts, and the physical and emotional toll resulting from this elevated stress appears to have also been substantial. For example, roughly half of surveyed adults reported that their behavior has been negatively affected in some way this year as a result of the pandemic, including around one in five respondents who said that they have experienced heightened tension in their bodies, “snapping” or getting angry very quickly, unexpected mood swings, and even yelling at loved ones.
More generally research has shown that people who suffer from chronic stress, regardless of its source, have higher rates of sleep deprivation, overeating, substance abuse, accidents, smoking, depression, and relationship troubles. Stress can also spill over into the workplace, which an earlier APA study estimated costs U.S. businesses $300 billion annually in the forms of avoidable turnover, reduced worker productivity, and higher medical expenses. A newer LifeWorks study similarly suggests that chronic stress can hurt retention efforts because nearly one in four surveyed Americans indicated that the COVID-19 crisis has led them to consider a job or career change. With such statistics, as well as the other potential motivations we touched on last month, it should not be too surprising why many businesses have been investing in financial wellness programs recently. In fact, a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute suggests that workers not only recognize how financial stress has hurt their job performance but also that they welcome the related assistance a wellness program may be able to provide.
Specifically, 30 percent of surveyed employees admitted that they worry about money at work, among which 70 percent do so “at least somewhat often.” Old-age financial concerns appear to be a big factor behind such anxiety because more than half (55 percent) of the respondents who said that they are not confident about living comfortably in retirement reported worrying about their finances at work (compared to just 7 percent for the employees optimistic about retirement). Roughly three in four surveyed workers also said that they believe participating in a financial wellness program would be “very or somewhat helpful,” particularly in the areas of calculating how much to save for a secure retirement, establishing an old-age budget, and planning for potential healthcare expenses in retirement. Moreover, many employees expressed a general belief that any type of wellness program would likely increase their productivity in the workplace, but responses suggest that the biggest boost should come from initiatives focused on retirement planning.
Sources: APA, LifeWorks, SHRM, EBRI