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Not just about the money

26 November 2018

Money & Life team

Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.

Thinking of a new job in the new year? With wage growth staying low, better benefits and work-life balance could be something to look for in your next role. Find out about the latest workplace trends for supporting employees with their health, finances and work-life balance.

The salary ceiling

While the wage growth rate in Australia for 2018 may be up on last year, it’s still very low with second quarter figures putting the wage price index at 2.1%. What this means is we’re seeing salaries rising only a fraction faster than inflation, with just 0.3% growth in real wages. If you’re in the market for a new job, this doesn’t bode well for pay negotiations with potential employers.

That doesn’t necessarily mean a new job has no new rewards to offer. Perhaps you’re looking for the challenges and opportunities to learn that a different role could bring. And at a time when companies are under more pressure to innovate and grow, it’s becoming more common for employees to look at new ways to attract top talent and keep their workforce engaged.

Flexibility is key

When it comes to choosing a place to work, flexibility is something many people value. Whether it’s the option to choose their hours, work remotely or more variety in the type of work they do, employees are often on the look out for an arrangement that suits their lifestyle better than working nine to five in the same office every day. According to the Mercer 2018 Global Talent Trends report, 51% of employees would like their company to offer more flexible work options and 71% of people who are thriving at work say their employer provides flexibility at work[1].

It’s good news for Aussies that the flexible working trend seems to be catching on. In their latest report summarising five years of data collection, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency found more employers are making a commitment to flexible working arrangements.

Almost a quarter of employers (70.7%) now have a policy or strategy for flexible working, compared with just over half (57.5%) in 2013-14.

By the time a job offer is on the table, the topic of flexible working arrangement may something you’ve already discussed. But if it hasn’t and it’s something you’re looking for, be sure to bring it up, particularly with your future boss. The Mercer report also found that while flexible working may be more common these days, it often happens in an ad hoc way and at the discretion of a manager[2].

Support for wellbeing

Flexible working is one of many ways employers can support health and wellbeing in the workplace. By allowing people more freedom to balance work and their other commitments, it’s thought that flexible working can reduce stress, boost productivity and improve health outcomes for employees[3]. And it’s definitely in the best interests of any business to invest in the wellbeing of their workforce. The 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey reports that employees in poor health take more than twice as much time off work, and their rate of presenteeism is 25% higher too[4].

It’s not just physical health problems that lead to this significant drop in productivity. The same report reveals almost a third of employees have suffered from severe stress, anxiety or depression in the last two years. So it’s not surprising to learn that half of companies surveyed have introduced workplace programs to reduce stress or are planning to do so[5].

Financial stress is on the rise

Research from the report also shows financial stress is becoming one of the biggest factors in employee health and productivity. With almost a quarter (23%) of Australian workers being unable to raise $2,000 at short notice[6], financial insecurity seems to be a significant threat to health and wellbeing. Employees with money problems are twice as likely to be in poor health and also report higher levels of stress, absence and presenteeism.

So what can employers be doing to support their workforce towards a more stable financial position, less stress and better health? When surveyed by Willis Towers Watson on preferred financial support services from their employer[7], spending tools were the number one choice for workers. These would provide ways for workers to track spending, review their finances and set goals, giving them some practical solutions for addressing the immediate causes of financial insecurity and stress.

The second most popular choice of service is access to a financial adviser. While budgeting for their current situation and lifestyle may be more important, advice from a professional to secure their financial future is a big priority for employees worldwide.

Looking to reduce your financial stress levels? Get tips from CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professionals on how to plan ahead with your finances so you can worry less, here and now.  

[1] Mercer 2018 Global Talent Trends Study, page 16

[2] Mercer 2018 Global Talent Trends Study, page 20 “Most companies have pockets of flexibility based on individual arrangements with a manager, but only 3% consider themselves industry leaders when it comes to flexibility”

[3] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Workplace Flexibility Strategy, page 4, “Flexibility is not only a beneft to businesses, it also benefts employees who can experience reduced stress, improved job satisfaction and better health outcomes through access to flexible working arrangements.” https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/Building_a_flexibility_strategy.pdf

[4] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 11, “Employees who are in the poorest health report more than double the number of absences and more than 25% higher presenteeism than other colleagues.”

[5] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 6, “Mental health issues are widespread around the world, with around three in 10 employees reporting they have suffered from severe stress, anxiety or depression in the last two years. Around half of employers have either introduced initiatives to reduce stress or are planning to do so.”

[6] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 8, “Comparable percentages of workers in Australia (23%), Canada (29%) and the U.S. (37%) could not quickly raise $2,000 (local currency)”

[7] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 26, “If your employer were to offer the following to help you manage your finances, which would you mostly prefer?”