Coping with the cost of living crisis
In the UK, we’re experiencing a cost of living crisis. This happens when costs rise faster than our wages, so things like your weekly shops or energy bills take up a larger proportion of your household budget. This means more people might be experiencing financial difficulties, and we know that money worries can have a big impact on your mental health.
But there are things you can do to help your own household and your employees. We’ve asked Naomi Barrow from Blurt to share her top tips.
The Blurt Foundation is a charity that aims to increase awareness and understanding of depression. They know that your salary can add to your feeling of self-worth – and when you can’t afford things any more, that can leave you feeling shame, fear, frustration or sadness.
“The more we struggle with money, the more shame we might feel,” says Naomi. “Shame can make it hard to speak to others about the difficulties we’re facing. It can leave us feeling incredibly alone.”
The ‘simple solutions’ don’t work
Often when talking about our money, journalists and politicians might suggest ways to help. For example, they might say you could create a household budget, or buy cheaper brands. But these solutions don’t work when you just don’t have enough money to go around.
“It can feel like people don’t grasp the extent of our situation,” Naomi adds. “People in the media share ‘simple’ solutions that are anything but. We can feel hopeless and stuck. We don’t have the ability to earn more, and already budget as well as we can, so it can start to feel like there’s no way out.”
The impact on mental wellbeing
This ongoing stress can have an impact on your mental wellbeing. And Naomi explains it can be a cycle – poor mental health can affect our income and outgoings, and money struggles can contribute to poor mental health.
“Poor mental health can affect all areas of our life,” she explains. “It can affect our income; how much money we’re able to earn (if we’re able to work at all), the types of jobs we can do, and our ability to take on overtime.
“It can also affect our outgoings. We might have to rely on pre-made food, be unable to shop around for deals, and struggle to manage the admin involved with all things money, all of which can end up costing us a fortune.”
What can employers do to help?
As an employer, there are ways you can offer support to your staff through the cost of living crisis. Of course, increasing the amount you pay staff can go a long way. But even if that’s not possible, you can still have a positive impact.
“If an employee is dealing with a difficult situation, try to support them where possible,” says Naomi. “It’s easy to think that if we can’t increase wages then there’s nothing that we can do, but little things often make a big difference. For example, we could have a quiet room in the office and allow employees to take urgent calls there if needed – many financial places are only open 9-5.”
She also suggests considering if staff need to be in the office all the time, to help them save on travel costs. And you could look into schemes designed to help, like the government’s tax relief for job expenses, and share information about these with your employees.
Creating the right culture
Naomi says employers can also think about the culture of their organisation, and consider how they can create an atmosphere that encourages mental wellness. “If employees are stressed about the cost of living, then adding additional workplace stress is unlikely to be helpful!” she explains. “Set healthy boundaries, such as avoiding 2am emails. Make taking breaks the norm. Try to support flexible working where possible.”
Check-ins on staff where appropriate can be helpful, but Naomi says this should be conducted in private. “People may not wish to spill their worries in front of an office full of people,” she adds. “Take time to brush up on the signs that someone might be less-than okay.”
Recognition for good work can also help to boost mental wellbeing, as well as sharing successes like compliments from clients and positive feedback from within the organisation.
“None of these things will solve the cost-of-living crisis,” says Naomi. “But, they can create a mental health-supportive workplace that allows any problems to be discussed before they reach boiling point.”
Check out these resources on supporting your employees through financial difficulties.
Resources in this toolkit:
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