January 31, 2023

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Workplace wellbeing

Financial wellbeing – does OSH have a role to play?

Jane Sparrow, Co-Founder and Director of The Culture Builders, on the cost of financial wellbeing in the workplace.

A CEO confided in me recently about how financial worries among staff were eating away at performance across his 600-strong business.

Employees were coming to work, he said, in an emotional state unlike anything he had seen before. When he looked into it, he found his team had serious concerns about money and were even struggling to afford the basics.

Today’s senior leader understands the key role of psychological safety – the importance of giving employees environments in which they can open up about concerns, both work and non-work-related. Now, amid the bleak economic news and cost of living crisis, the leaders we advise are looking at psychological safety in the context of financial wellbeing. At a time when many will want to talk through their money troubles, doing so remains a stigma for many.


More than half of people interviewed for a UK survey recently admitted they didn’t feel comfortable opening up when they were worried about their financial situation. Top reasons included shame, upbringing and not wanting to burden others.

Another survey found that more than two-thirds of employees interviewed would not tell their employer about their money worries. So powerful was the stigma, causing feelings of embarrassment and shame, that some delayed asking for help for more than three years.

Credit: micheile dot com/Unsplash

In simple terms, it means many leaders will have a cohort of employees who are suffering in silence because they are too embarrassed to seek support. Shame is stifling engagement and impacting on financial wellbeing and, consequently, productivity. There is hope, however, and it can be found in good leadership on another workplace stigma.

The stigmatisation of mental health is well-documented and great strides have been made to give people safe spaces at work to talk about it. We’re not 100% of the way there yet, but an admission of mental illness is no longer the career mistake it once was.

Now, as we look forward to months of recession and rising costs of living, we need our leaders to take inspiration from the progress made with mental health to lead on financial wellbeing. No longer can people be expected to leave their financial woes at the gate, but the impact on performance levels can be minimised.


I think there is an opportunity here for the safety and health practitioner, who has the skills set to assess and advise on measures in the context of the culture of the organisation. Here are some practical steps you can suggest to tackle the stigma –

As an organisation:

  • Feature ideas and resources around financial wellbeing in internal communication;
  • Investigate systems that allow employees to manage their salary more directly (like instant cash-outs and sacrifice systems);
  • Use flex working as a way of reducing the financial burden on people;
  • Look at how your purchasing power as an organisation can help people get access to goods and services at a cheaper rate (really sweat your employee benefits systems);
  • Equip team leaders and managers with resources and ‘boost’ sessions to help them bring the theme into everyday business life and language.

As a team:

  • Share how you are facing into your financial wellbeing – if you’re trying a new way of living or habit that is helping you, share advice;
  • Talk about what the company offers and make sure people know where to find resources;
  • Again, use the power of the group – sweat those offers of ‘ten percent off’ for signing up new members to products and services;
  • Look at how you can use the company’s flex policy to better manage things like car-shares and remote connections.

As an individual:

  • Don’t struggle in silence – find help and ask others if they are adopting new habits that are helping their financial wellbeing
  • Talk to others and find a win/win – if your financial wellbeing is a challenge, talk to colleagues, leader or HR department and be ready to offer solutions or an ‘ask’ that you feel would be a win/win for both the company/team and you
  • Get better at managing your money. Do you know your full outgoings, are you good at setting spending limits for yourself… or do you bury your head in the sand?

Next steps

There’s loads of sites out there that will give advice on this area (take a listen to our podcast with Financial Wellbeing Expert Emma Waller to find out more). This is exactly what the CEO I mentioned did – he put in place a spread of support approaches that provided solutions, support and understanding.

Related Topics

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Joe Bloggs
Joe Bloggs
1 year ago

Considering the financial wellbeing of staff is long overdue – check out the benchmarking – H&S Manager in London – £30k-£50k – ridiculous in light of cost of living.

Harold Maio
Harold Maio
1 year ago

—-The stigmatisation of mental health is well-documented …

Sadly that is true, but we seem to place no attention at all on those taught and teaching that prejudice. We are totally remiss in not doing so.

Harold A Maio