Why braving the debt taboo leads to a healthier workforce

September 7, 2016

By Monica Kalia, Co-Founder of Neyber

There’s a huge focus today on wellness with countless voices across the media providing advice on everything from diets to exercise programmes. Where mental health is concerned we’ve experienced a revolution in the way that it is openly discussed and this is thankfully helping to remove the stigma associated with the condition. At Neyber we’re great supporters of this developing trend and believe that it will ultimately lead to a more mindful healthier society, where people live longer and better lives.

One major taboo, however, exists and our failure to address this has ramifications for the physical and mental health of people like you and me across the UK. This taboo relates to our inability to discuss financial wellbeing and, in particular, indebtedness. For many people this can cause stress and deny them the opportunity to put their financial affairs in order. It also means that short term fixes are put in place when cash is scarce, when long-term solutions are what is needed. This is why so many people have racked up credit card debts or taken out payday loans and are paying ridiculous rates of interest as a consequence.

At Neyber we’re on mission to put an end to this needless spiral of indebtedness and believe that financial mindfulness offers the way to achieve this. The best definition that we’ve found of mindfulness comes from Janice Marturano, Deputy General Counsel of the US corporation General Mills. She defines it as “training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected.”

Where our finances are concerned there has never been a greater need for financial mindfulness. Research just conducted by Opinium that Neyber is publishing today shows the scale of the crisis people across the UK are facing.

With our primary focus on workplace solutions, our research is showing us that debt is having a negative impact on concentration, sickness, absence and energy levels. These are all causing suboptimal performance in the workplace.

Out of over 5,000 people surveyed we’ve found that two thirds have been affected by money worries in the past year, in ways such as feeling stressed (38%) anxious (35%) and depressed (23%), losing sleep (25%) struggling to focus on work (13%) and missing days at work (6%).

Over half said they had outstanding unsecured (non-mortgage) debt. While 32% said they had used a credit card (which often charge rates of around 20%) in the past year, with a further 6% resorting to using payday loans.

And it gets worse when you look at people’s ability to survive the sort of financial shock that is brought on by redundancy, illness or having to give up work to look after ageing parents – all common factors in 21st century Britain.

We’ve found that many people lack the means to weather even a temporary financial storm with 25% unable to last a month or less on their savings if they lost their main source of income and a further 25% who would be very worried if faced by an emergency expenditure of £1,000. With these findings it’s also no surprise to find that 19% of those surveyed failed to save regularly and 9% had no savings whatsoever.

In generational terms the people most likely to show financial stress fell in to the 25-34 age bracket with 81% of people in that group admitting to having been affected by money worries in the past year. They were also most likely to have lost sleep (29%) and missed a day at work due to financial stress (11%) and to have outstanding unsecured debts (61%).

These broad brush figures are worrying enough in their own right but we’re sure that when you look at the individuals concerned who are working hard to support their families or simply to just get by in life then what they are going through without financial mindfulness or openness is something of a national scandal.

This is why we believe that we need to extend the mindfulness revolution into our financial circumstances. To address the problems we need to get the issues out there and start talking about debt and enabling people to enjoy sustainable finances. In practical terms this means society focusing on what needs to be done and connecting with the financial issues that impact on people’s lives.

Working people across the UK are being charged far too much for credit. Putting mindfulness into practice means focusing on bringing this down to levels that are morally right and sustainable for borrowers. If we achieve this, then we will be removing a huge unspoken source of anxiety from the shoulders of people across the UK. And about time too.

Then we should start to experience a more engaged workplace. Employees able to better concentrate on their jobs, perform better and to feel that they are making a difference.

Axis Group is committed to creating a better work-life balance and supporting our employees wherever possible, this is why we have partnered with Neyber, a company that aims to create workplace communities that enable employees to borrow and save together at fairer rates and to cut credit costs. Through working with Neyber, Axis can support its employees through access to fairer finance through personal loans with salary-deducted repayments, and tools to help employees manage their money better.