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financial challenges of returning employees

6 Financial Challenges Your Employees Are Dealing With Returning to the Office

It should go without saying that the outbreak of COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we work.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) reported that in 2020, 60% of survey respondents began working from home or increased the hours they worked from home. Now that most COVID-related restrictions have eased and that the vast majority of the population is now vaccinated, employees are returning to the office.

Whilst establishing ways to manage this mass return to work in adherence with safety requirements is at the forefront of most human resource professionals’ minds, it’s essential to consider the financial challenges employees might be facing as a result of returning to work.

What financial challenges are returning employees dealing with?

Returning to the office can cost employees in the following ways:

commute

The lack of commute has been one of the most widely enjoyed advantages of remote working, and the financial benefits were immediately apparent. However, with the return to the office comes the return of the commute. With Australia topping world lists for most expensive public transportation and parking, not to mention the rising price of petrol, the financial impact of having to commute is significant.

childcare

While many working parents are keen to leave the stress of juggling working from home with childcare behind, returning to work often means having to pay for childcare arrangements. This can be a considerable additional financial pressure for many families.

pet care

Working from home eliminated the need for daycare and dog-walking services for many pet owners. For employees returning to non-pet-friendly workplaces, the costs of pet care soon add up. According to an article from news.com.au, the average daily price for dog daycare in Sydney is $55, so even returning to the office part-time can incur hefty costs.

food

Another area that most employees didn’t spend as much money on while working from home is food. The return to work often means paying for lunches again and possibly even catering costs.

clothing

Returning to the office means having to wear appropriate work attire. I’m sure I’m not alone in putting on some COVID kilos from working in such close proximity to my refrigerator and not being able to attend the gym. Whether you’re buying for fashion or fit, the expenses of office wear soon add up.

covid-19 tests

For employees whose employers aren’t covering the cost of COVID-19 testing, the costs of paying for their own may be of concern. This is of particular concern to part-time and lower-earning employees who won’t benefit from the tests being tax-deductible.

How do these financial challenges affect your employees?

When employees’ workdays involve costs that largely vanished during the pandemic, it can become overwhelming to be faced with them again. Financial difficulties play a huge part in stress which can cause even those who can’t wait to get back to the office anxious about their return.

How do employees’ financial challenges affect your business?

The stress and anxiety brought on by these financial difficulties can have profound effects on performance. Employees are more likely to be less productive, have higher absenteeism rates, and have lower morale.

The Working from Home Productivity Commission found that before the outbreak, about 8% of employees worked from home. Since COVID-19, the commission reported that number had soared to around 40%. With so many now returning to the workplace, a significant number of employees are likely to experience some financial challenges of going back to the office.

How to assist employees with the financial challenges of returning to work

Human resource professionals are well placed to assist employees who are dealing with the financial difficulties of returning to work. Doing the following can help:

1. Raise management’s awareness of these financial challenges

Addressing employees’ financial challenges is beneficial to both the employee and the business. However, managers are often unaware of the challenges their employees encounter, so raising their awareness is a good first step.

2. Incorporate financial wellness into your employee wellness program

By incorporating financial wellness, you can equip employees with the skills and knowledge they need to stay on top of their personal finances. Guiding employees towards financial success is our specialty. Please contact us to learn how we can help your staff.

3. Make sure your employees are aware of the help available to them

It’s vital to ensure employees are aware of the assistance available to them. Bear in mind that employees might not come to you for assistance with such a sensitive nature, so try to make it as easy as possible for them to access support.

4. Be empathetic

Financial challenges can be difficult to talk about, and people often feel like they have failed when they face money problems. Empathy and understanding go a very long way in these situations, and HR departments are well-positioned to provide this sort of support.

5. Encourage employees to seek support when they need it

If the strains of the financial challenges become too much, your employees might need additional support. Workplace counselling can help your employees deal with stress and anxiety and in turn, improve staff retention.

Employers who assist their employees with the financial challenges they face when returning to work after COVID-19 will enjoy a smoother transition back to the office and a more productive, engaged team. 

If you would like to learn more about assisting your employees with improving their financial confidence – please get in touch with us at rebeccam@proforce.net.au for an introductory conversation.

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