With COVID-19 forcing millions into homeworking and banks providing support to a rising number of vulnerable customers, employees in the finance sector are under a number of pressures.
Here, FINSIA’s partner organisation in the UK Chartered Banker explores how important workforce stability is as an element of organisational resilience – and how banks can support their staff during times of uncertainty - as part of a special report we are sharing with members here.
Those working in the finance sector are facing almost unparalleled levels of pressure, the report says.
While many in the industry have been protected from job loss, a combination of homeworking, financial uncertainty, professional obligations and any number of personal challenges is creating a pressure cooker for the health and well-being of employees.
As any leadership team knows, poor mental and physical health among staff can create an operational house of cards, bringing significant risk to both the business and the futures of its employees.
But the difficulty, says Paul Barrett, Head of Wellbeing at the Bank Workers Charity (BWC), is that it can be almost impossible to unpick the causes of stress during crises such as a global pandemic.
“It’s hard to disentangle the various pressures that people are under, especially when you’re talking about a home working population, because they’re just dealing with a succession of events,” he says.
“For somebody working from home, that is going to depend on their family circumstances – it’s going to be to do with their children or their partners or what’s going on in their lives.
“Maybe they need to be homeschooling children. Maybe they’re shielding a vulnerable member of their family. And then there are going to be all the normal work problems that get thrown up, but these can become more difficult to deal with when you’re not in the office.”
While many across the industry have been protected from the significant job losses experienced elsewhere, financial pressures are still one of the key issues affecting employee resilience.
“We’ve seen a lot of people coming through, especially in the early stages of the pandemic, whose household finances had gone off a cliff,” Barrett says.
“Although bank employees had their salaries covered as normal, their partners might have been on furlough or they may have been working reduced hours or even lost their jobs. That has put lots of people into a very difficult position.
“We’ve seen many employees whose finances pre-pandemic were already precarious and falling into seriously difficulty. There was a big surge in requests for financial support during the early phase of the pandemic. It was nearly always in situations where one partner had lost their job or had seen a significant drop in income.”
It’s not just the finance sector. Research published by Mindshare earlier this year found that 42% of respondents were more worried about their finances than about COVID-19.
And it does seem as though organisations are responding. With a growing number of employees under increasing financial pressure, many financial services firms have been stepping up their health and well-being strategies to include financial welfare.
“We’ve been brought in to do lots of webinars on financial well-being across the sector, and I know that a number of the banks have been producing financial well-being campaigns because they’re very aware of the link between poor financial well-being and mental health problems. That’s an important two-directional relationship.”