4 ways to ease financial stress to help boost productivity at work

Money is the #1 cause of stress for Canadians. This can show up in our lives in lots of different ways, whether we’re a parent, a caregiver, a student, or under-employed. For folks who do have regular jobs, financial stress and uncertainty have wreaked havoc on their productivity and the very root of how they feel about their personal performance, job success, and even the meaning of their career.

If you’ve ever had concerns about your finances taking over your ability to get tasks done on the job, you’re definitely not alone. 97% of employees say that they worry about personal finances or focus on them during their workday. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 43% of Canadians said that stress over their finances impacted their productivity at work.

It goes without saying that during the pandemic, financial strain and performance concerns have gone through the roof. In 2020, research showed that workers who worried consistently about money: 

●      Needed to take off an extra 3.5 days from work each year

●      Are 8x more likely to lose sleep due to financial concerns

●      Are 5x more likely to not finish their daily work tasks

●      Are 4x more likely to have troubled relationships with colleagues

●      Were less likely to meet their savings and retirement goals

●      Were less likely to feel in control of their finances

More worry, less happy

When we’re stressed about money, it makes all the other aspects of our lives feel less rewarding. Our core feelings of happiness and job satisfaction are deeply tied to our own internal sense of productivity and “success.” When we feel good about the job we’re doing and that we’re contributing meaningfully to our lives, families, and futures, we naturally feel more satisfied.

When the opposite becomes true, and we feel like we’re doing all we can just to survive, then the self-fulfilling cycle of happiness and productivity is thrown off balance. The less happy we are, the less productive we are, and so the less happy we are — and on and on. Happiness and productivity are inextricably linked, and research shows financial stress is one of the top detriments to happiness in all areas of our lives.

In a report from FP Canada, Dr. Moira Summers, Ph.D., a specialist in mental and financial wellbeing, says, ”Money is interconnected with many aspects of our lives such as work. That can lead to a vicious cycle or a virtuous cycle in terms of the actions people might take. For example, when people address relationship issues or mental health challenges, they often become more confident and more positively engaged with their financial lives."

Sure, it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. When you feel better about money, you’ll feel better about work —  and when you feel better about work, you’ll feel better about money. So where to start? By taking a few key steps to ease your stress about money (and stress in general) so that you’ll naturally feel happier and amp up your productivity in all areas of your life.

Financial planning eases financial stress

It’s totally fair if thinking about your financial future is the last thing you want to do right now, but this is one area where a little bit of planning can go a long way in making you feel better.

1.      Any plan is better than no plan

Creating a financial plan is a key first step, no matter how much you make. Often, we think that we don’t have enough money to warrant a financial planner, but in reality, at every single life and work stage, most Canadians will benefit from creating a basic financial plan. This doesn’t have to be overly complicated, and even the foundations of a road map to pay off debt or organize retirement savings will set you up for greater success down the road.

The key here is not to blame yourself for not having a plan. Exacerbating any feelings you have of financial shame will make it harder, not easier, to get started. It’s never too early or too late to start financial planning. 

2.       Make a budget

In 2020, only half of Canadians had a budget. We get it — making (and maintaining) a budget ranks somewhere between going to the dentist and shovelling the driveway on the list of things you want to do. But a budget is one of the easiest ways to give you a sense of financial control, and control is one of the best ways to reduce financial stress. It might not be fun, but you’ll be glad that you did it.

3.      Ask your workplace about benefits programs

You might have access to financial literacy and other types of wellness programs through your work and not even know it. Each company does this differently, but check with your People, Culture, and HR teams on what’s available for you. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are common, and on top of helping you with healthcare issues they usually also offer advice and counselling about budgeting, retirement planning, debt consolidation, and more.

4.      Don’t forget about mental health in general

You’re probably stressed about a lot of things on top of your finances, and worries about money can’t be easily separated from your mental health overall. Coping skills, resilience, and the ability to see the bigger, longer-term picture are all facets of mindfulness that you can proactively work on building more of into your life.

When you’re looking into EAP or other benefits programs, also check out what’s more broadly available to you to protect your mental health. Online counselling, meditation programs, and even free financial planning apps are all excellent ways to help you learn how to notice the effects of any kind of stress and lower the severity of symptoms to your mind and body.

Cut yourself some slack

As we’ve talked about, the majority of Canadians right now are stressed out about money and feeling how it impacts their work lives. Try not to beat yourself up about your financial plans or lack thereof. It won’t help you, and in fact, feelings of shame and guilt around money planning have been shown to make it harder for you to get started and improve your situation.

The other side of that coin is that giving yourself a little self-compassion and understanding can make you feel calmer and open the door to taking advantage of the first steps we’ve listed above. This can be the beginning of feeling better about money so that you can feel better about work. And when you feel better about work — you guessed it — you’ll naturally be more productive.

Jeremy Elder is a Toronto-based content marketer and copywriter with over a decade’s experience telling stories for some of the world’s biggest brands. He’s an expert at finding WiFi wherever you least expect it.

Jeremy Elder is a paid Sonnet spokesperson.
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