Financial Stress and Productivity

Financial Stress and Productivity

Jun 30, 2021

(If you want to consume this article in audio, click link)

What makes a good employee?`

If you ask an employer what they are looking for in an employee, chances are they will come up with answers such as honest, passionate, with strong work ethic, team player, critical thinker, action-oriented, accountable, with good communication skills, with integrity, fast learner, problem-solver, and other characteristics that all point to high productivity. What a wonderful world it would be if we all possessed these qualities and could always get them into action.

Unfortunately, there are barriers to our ability to always deliver these wonderful traits. One such barrier is financial stress. Financial stress is a condition of anxiety or worry brought about by one’s financial condition.

Underline FinStress definition

Before we go further in discussing financial stress, let’s discuss stress in general. Stress is any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is our body’s response to anything that requires attention or action. For as long as we live, we will encounter stress. And let me be bold enough to say that we need stress. We need to be challenged once in a while in order to signal to our body, “Hey this is serious, organs, let’s re-group to solve the problem.” Hopefully, with the cooperation of all our organs combined with our plan of action, things would come together to bring us to a resolution of the stress. This leaves us a stronger person compared to how we were prior to the stress.

Unfortunately, we don’t always get to solve the problem. And for as long as the stress is there, our body will continue to be in that “hey organs, let’s re-group” mode and being in that state for a long time is what is unhealthy. So, the real problem with stress is not being subjected to it, but prolonging it and making our body stay in that hyper mode that will eventually weaken our immune system.

Financial Stress and Productivity

It’s the same with financial stress. We will all face financial challenges in several points in our life. The idea is to be equipped to overcome the stress when it comes.

In hiring employees, some prefer those with a little bit of financial stress. I hear some employers say, “I prefer to hire fresh graduates from not so exclusive schools because some of them need to help their family financially, making them stay longer, compared to those who don’t need the money and are quick to resign when they don’t see their job fulfilling their ‘passion’ anymore!”

Hopefully, the employment will help the employee and his family in overcoming financial stress; otherwise, the employee will stay in that financial stress condition and that could be disastrous both for himself and the company.

Let me share some statistics on the effect of financial stress on productivity.

Here are some interesting results based on a survey done by PriceWaterhouseCoopers PwC on Employee Financial Wellness in the US conducted in May 2020.

1. Which of the following causes you the most stress?

2. Employees who have less than $1,000 saved to deal with unexpected expenses according to age group

In an earlier survey by Lockton Retirement Services in 2016, they found out these adverse effects of financial stress on employee behavior.

1. Effect of financial stress on absenteeism.

2. Effect of financial stress on taking prescription drugs

3. Effect of being behind in retirement saving

Given all the above, it is alarming that if we don’t help our employees solve their financial stress, we stand to lose their engagement and productivity and ultimately, company productivity.

Employers should start making financial health benefit as part of compensation packages. It is not enough to give them high starting salaries, bonuses, and merit increases every year. As discussed in FQ Book 2, money matters are very emotional in nature and every human being, who is a combination of Makatwirang Mak and Emotional Emong, needs hand-holding and the proper systems in place in order to achieve good financial condition. It is not a one-off thing of giving an inspiring finance talk.

The good news is that employers are in a position to extend this help. They are the source of income and consequently, the control to design something. Just like a parent who is training his child financial prudence and raising him to have a high FQ through his allowance, employers can do the same. We, at IFE, provide this service to employers. We look forward to making this a regular feature in compensation packages because really, when it comes to handling money, we need all the help we can get.

Remember, when it comes to handling money, knowledge is not enough. Our rational Makatwirang Mak that may know all the necessary information, still needs all the help from the right structures in order to make things work with his Emotional Emong side. (Makatwirang Mak and Emotional Emong are the characters in FQ Book 2 that help us understand our duality in decision making and actual behavior.)  

In the end, what makes a good employee are all the traits mentioned above but we need to make sure that his basic needs are met so that he is not bogged down by debilitating financial stress.

Here’s wishing that our employers start helping their employees overcome their financial stress the right way.


1. Let’s continue the conversation on Thursday on our Kumu show (Episode title: Financial Stress and Productivity)

2. Please subscribe to my new FQ Mom Podcast. If you’d rather consume this article in audio and listen to additional comments and insights, please listen to my podcast on the platform of your choice.

3. I have a webinar today at 5pm discussing further this topic together with other speakers. It’s a free event but you have to register to reserve a slot. You may click to do so.

4. To learn more about your money behavior, get your copy of FQ Book 2. Get copies for your loved ones too. The principles you will learn from here are not only applicable in your financial life but all the other important aspects of your life.

To know more about FQ Book 2, watch this short video .

5. How good are you with money? Do you want to know your FQ Score? Take the FQ Test and get hold of your finances now. Scan the QR code or click the link

Attribution: ITIJ, History, Work Feels Good, 9to5Mac, Bigstockphoto