It is important to cultivate a workplace culture in which people can set aside personal issues in a neutral space. However, the reality of life is that some personal issues are large enough that they start to have a negative impact on workplace behavior and performance. One of the most common examples is personal finance problems at home. 

While issues of personal budgeting and debt may not directly pertain to an employee’s daily job performance, ripples can often be felt anyway. A person who is drowning in debt, or who has a sudden emergency for which they haven’t saved enough, may be stressed, preoccupied, uncooperative, or undependable. 

All of these behaviors may characterize any employee at one time or other, but when they suddenly emerge as an employee who has otherwise displayed much better performance, it’s clear that something is the matter. There may be other issues at play (partner problems, illness, problems with children, etc.), but very often these issues relate to underlying money troubles (arguing with spouse about debt, being unable to cover medical expenses, not being able to afford adequate childcare). 

For all of these reasons, it can be very helpful to struggling employees for the workplace to provide financial counseling. It is usually inappropriate to go directly to an employee and bring up the issue of personal finance problems at home, but there are more delicate ways to help the employee find out without triggering a human resources issue. Here are some of the ways to do just that.  

Personal Finance Assistance for Employees 

  •  Make employees aware of the financial programs your company already has in effect. It is likely that many employees don’t fully understand these and may not be taking full advantage of them. It may be hard to understand why an employee might not take advantage of 401(k) matching or student loan assistance, but people don’t use what they don’t understand, and they might not set up a new policy if they feel they don’t have the time or might make a bad decision. Take the time to walk employees through these policies and you’ll see higher participation rates. You’ll also likely see less financial anxiety over time. These meetings are a good time to talk about other related personal financial problems as well, without seeming untactful. 
  •  Another great way to help employees learn to improve their personal finances in order to feel and do better in the workplace is to provide helpful resources. Not everyone will be willing to take financial advice from HR, but they may be willing to read the top finance blogs you recommend. Some people learn best on their own, and it’s a great thing to both recognize and facilitate this trait. 
  •  Another way to foster better financial practices among your employees, without coming right out and making these demands, is to emphasize retirement and future security. Talk about how your company is committed to the long-term well-being of its employees, and that you do so through providing investment resources and the like. You can explain how it’s possible to invest while in debt, but that it’s better to get rid of the debt first. You can offer debt-reduction counseling or resources at this point, but frame it around the larger commitment to retirement security, something everyone in your office probably wants.  

There are many reasons why an employee might have acute financial anxiety, and there is only so much you can do as an employer. But there are good methods to bring some of these problems into the light, to help your employee improve their personal financial standing and to be less preoccupied with money problems while on the clock.