« Freelancers fight to be paid | Main | How to reduce job stress »

Employers now understand work life balance starts with financial help

Will your employer bail you out of debt? Not likely. Will your employer give you a financial education so that you don't go into debt. More likely.

Employers are beginning to understand that productivity suffers when workers are trying to hide from bill collectors or figure out how they ever will retire. If there's anything companies can do to provide help with work life balance, it's offering financial education.

Today, my Miami Herald column tackled the topic. Let me hear from you if your employer is doing anything innovative.

Companies help employees who have financial stress


Dave Lewis tries to appear like a dedicated employee when he walks into work each morning, but his thoughts sometimes are on which creditor might hound him by lunchtime rather than what sale he might clinch. Lewis says he hides his financial troubles from his boss and admits he even has called in sick to avoid embarrassment.

With more Americans staving off foreclosures, considering bankruptcy and fretting over the balance in their retirement-savings or college-savings plans, financial stress has permeated almost every workplace.

As the economic downturn hit, employers shared their financial pain with employees, cutting paychecks and freezing matches in retirement-savings plan. Yet, they left them alone to figure out how to manage their shrinking budgets -- until now.

Topics that used to be taboo to discuss in the workplace are spilling into workshop offerings and company-wide webinars.

``Some employers are taking on heavy-duty stuff,'' said Kathie Lingle, executive director of the Alliance for Work-Life Progress. ``Companies are looking at financial fitness as seriously as health and wellness. We hadn't seen this before.''

As the economy struggles to recover, employers have begun to understand the effect their workers' financial woes have on the company's bottom line.

Almost two-thirds of employers believe that employees are less productive when they are worried about personal financial problems and 52 percent believe that absenteeism increases when employees are dealing with personal financial issues, MetLife's annual Employee Benefits Trends Study shows.

Howard Dvorkin, founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, says employers are naïve if they don't realize how much of the work day is devoted to personal financial concerns.

``The majority of people contact our offices while they are at work because people they owe money are contacting them at work. Our highest Internet traffic is at 10 a.m.'' Dvorkin says the message should be clear: ``When an employee is going through a financial problem and you give then information to resolve it, they will be more productive in their job.''


Earlier this month, Tonya White, manager of building design and construction at University of Miami, spent her lunch hour at two back-to-back workshops as part of UM's Financial Wellness Week. More than 500 attended.

``I've done a lot of things differently,'' White said about a week after the workshops. She has put a new budget into place. ``My husband had been planning for retirement but I realized I need to think about it, too, and take some steps to get ready.''

Bill Plough, an instructor with Consolidated Credit Counseling, says UM is just one employer who has brought him onsite to educate workers. ``Employees are going to human resources asking for advances, and advice because their house is going into foreclosure, or their car is about to be repossessed. HR people don't have a solution.''


Meanwhile, some companies have looked inward to their own educational resources, tapping them to help staff.

Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust in Coral Gables realized its employees could benefit from the personal finance workshops it offers customers. More than 30 employees attended each of three sessions.

``We don't want our employees to be drowning in debt when we are a bank and have all these resources,'' said Elaine King, Gibraltar's director of wealth and well-being. The workshops were a hit, she says. ``Our employees needed to step up their own personal financial discipline if they are going to talk to our clients about it.''

Pepsi Beverages Co. took its financial-fitness program a step further. Not only does the company offer access to financial-management tools and programs, it also paired with PricewaterhouseCoopers to give its 33,000 employees free, unlimited access to financial advisors through a call center. Since the program's inception in 2008, 20,000 employees have participated, according to spokeswoman Kristine Hinck.


Even small businesses on a tight budget are finding ways to offer financial fitness, mostly by making information available on websites and allowing employees to participate in educational webinars on company time.

Two nonprofit websties are smartaboutmoney.org and mymoney.gov. ``An employer can say, I understand your hardship. Here are places to go to reevaluate your budget,'' says Paul Golden, a spokesperson for the National Endowment for Financial Education. ``Offering something like that can go a long way to benefit an employee.''