Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

Employees’ Financial Stress Is Costing Employers Billions

Concerns about finances aren’t just affecting employees; employers are also suffering from lost hours and money as well as recruiting and retention woes.

Employees on average reported losing more than seven hours of productivity each week due to their financial stress, costing U.S. employers $183 billion annually, according to recent data from financial wellness provider BrightPlan’s Wellness Barometer Survey. The problem is worse for younger generations—Gen Z reported over eight hours a week in lost productivity.

Additionally, 78% of leaders said their employees’ financial stress led to higher turnover last year, noting that workers left for higher pay or better financial wellness benefits, according to the survey, which polled 1,400 knowledge workers, including a mix of C-suite executives, HR decision-makers, and employees in various industries.

Other recent research has shed light on employees’ problematic financial situations: A Bank of America report found that fewer than half of U.S. workers (47%) feel financially well, while a FinFit survey found that about 60% of respondents said they experience stress and anxiety when thinking about their finances. And another survey by the American Staffing Association found that 53% of employees feel their paychecks are not keeping up with the pace of inflation.

But BrightPlan’s data paints a clearer picture of how much financial stress is affecting employers. The BrightPlan research points to a “significant concern” for employers, especially because other similar market drivers are causing difficulties for organizations, said Joe Vangsgard, the firm’s chief marketing officer.

“Financial stress impacts employee productivity, engagement, and retention. All of these directly impact the leadership team’s ability to achieve these goals, which is why employers are now leaning into supporting the financial health of their employees more than ever before,” he said.

Overall, BrightPlan found, the vast majority of respondents (85%) are stressed about their finances. High inflation (cited by 95% of respondents) and rising interest rates (90%), unsurprisingly, are the top contributors toward high financial stress, followed by concerns about a potential recession (88%) and market volatility (87%).

Employers in the Dark

The BrightPlan survey also found that company leaders are generally in the dark on the true state of their employees’ financial well-being, a finding that reveals a major disconnect between worker needs and employer support.

For instance, while leaders estimate that 30% of their workforce has an “excellent” financial situation, just 12% of employees would describe their finances as such. Organizations also highly overestimate how satisfied their team members are with the support they receive from their employers: 76% of workers are not satisfied with their company’s financial benefits, but 92% of leaders believe their company offers the financial support employees need. About 8 out of 10 leaders said their company either offers or plans to offer financial benefits, according to BrightPlan.

Part of that dissatisfaction might be “less about what is being missed and more about what has changed in the landscape of work today,” Vangsgard said.

Millennials and Gen Z workers, for instance, are more open about finances, “leading to more workplace conversations and expectations of their employers than ever before,” Vangsgard said. Beyond evolving expectations, “the economy continues to be challenging to navigate for both employers and employees, which is why there is so much momentum behind this need.”

Also, because finances are deeply personal and unique to each person, they can be a challenging area for managers and other company leaders to realize and address. The statistics prove that employers have to think more about what kind of support would most benefit a range of workers.

“Many companies seem to be reaching for blanket strategies like having everyone return to the office as a solution for increasing productivity,” Vangsgard explained. “Or, companies might offer a mental wellness benefit as a catch-all for wellness needs, hoping this will help employees be more engaged at work, though financial stress could very well be the driver behind their employees’ stress and lack of wellness.”

Vangsgard said employers would be wise to step up communication with employees about financial wellness to first gauge how big of a problem financial wellness is in the workforce, then to determine what kind of workplace financial benefits and support workers may want.

“Many of the HR leaders we work with use their existing employee surveys and add financial stress-related questions or conduct additional assessments to determine the impact, need, and expectation of their employees for financial wellness support,” he said.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.