Broader societal problems affect a firm’s performance because employees do not leave their personal problems at the door when they enter the workplace. Worries about debt, housing and personal relationships affect how many employees perform at work. This is because difficult personal circumstances affect energy levels, concentration, engagement and, ultimately, the ability to remain in work.
Employers have an important role in facilitating or offering a range of services to help employees address these issues. For example, in a context of high levels of personal debt and the ready availability of pay-day loans, employers may work with respected debt management services to offer impartial and independent advice to employees who may not know where to go to access these services. Other employers may also offer services as part of their recruitment and retention practices. For example, public sector employers may publicise the availability of housing for key workers in areas with a shortage of affordable housing and private sector employers may work with mortgage advisory services.
Offering a wide range of services helps generate a climate of support in which employees feel the use of these services is encouraged and backed by the employer, rather than likely to result in questions relating to their ability to perform in a job.
An important aspect of this support is encouraging open discussion of the issues employees may have and how employers may help them. For example, an increasing number of employees will be required to care for elderly relatives and plan for their own long-term care. It is important that employers understand and support staff in these activities through the provision of flexible-working arrangements and making financial advice available when appropriate.
Employers that offer a wide range of support to employees who encounter housing, debt and caring responsibilities at different times of their lives are likely to attract and motivate the talent required to succeed. They are also likely to help employees perform effectively in their jobs. Such support is also vital for employees to remain in work and improve their quality of life.
Nick Bacon is professor in human resource management at Cass Business School