You’re losing perhaps two or more weeks a year in productivity, and it has nothing to do with technology, coworkers, the commute, illness, or other common issues. The problem is money stress.
Let’s take a step back and make a list of everything that impacts people’s productivity at work:
- Factors that relate to the workplace.
- Factors that originate from outside the workplace.
That’s it. But when it comes to employee productivity, we don’t typically spend much time on either. Rather, we expect people to be highly engaged and efficient at their jobs without even a moment’s thought about their work environment or their non-work environment.
It is a cause of what workplace gurus call “presenteeism” – where you are at work but not fully functioning due to illness or severe stress – which accounts for more lost time than actual sick days, when people are fully absent from their jobs.
Workers who say money concerns keep them from doing their jobs lost 12.4 days due to presenteeism in 2015, and just 3.5 days to absence, according to a new study on financial worries from Willis Towers Watson, a leading benefits firm.
It might seem like the easy answer to this problem is just to pay people more. After all, if people are stressed about their finances, shouldn’t bumping their salaries address the issue?
No. Although broadly speaking, you’ll make more if you pay people , it’s also true that employee productivity is not purely a function of salary.
Instead, we need to realize something about individuals which may be hard for us to accept. Specialization is good. In other words, just because someone is great at their job doesn’t mean they are automatically great at managing the income they receive from that job.
Likewise, they may not really understand their other benefits, nor will they necessarily know how to network and build relationships to best support their career, nor will they be a stellar volunteer, amazing parent, or loving spouse.
We employ people to provide value to the organization. While we want them to be well-rounded individuals in every aspect of their lives, that’s not something most employers think about. However, if our goal is to have highly engaged, loyal workers who are extremely productive, we must support their personal lives.
This can be achieved through a variety of benefits and services, including:
- Employee Assistance Programs, which provide counseling and short-term help for immediate stressors in employee’s personal and professional lives.
- Health insurance, including mental health care as well as a company culture that say that ill people should rest and recover, not feel the need to work.
- Flexible and reasonable scheduling, so that people who have appointments, childcare requirements, or who need to work from places other than the office can do so with total comfort.
Of course, not every company can offer these programs. But all organizations can place the highest emphasis on the most important workplace value: dignity. We can respect individuals and ask them what they need. We can communicate that their contributions at work only matter if they are sustainable, and that they can only be sustainable if their life outside of work is stable.
And while companies can’t solve everyone’s problems, they can be places that accept that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Everyone has made a bad financial decision or an mistake at work.
The challenge is helping people to help themselves, so they can do what is needed to empower the company and it’s customers to succeed.