Cost of living pressures – tackling feelings of shame and embarrassment

Article Header
Workplace Thought Leadership Team

September 14, 2022

3 mins read

UK inflation has hit a 40-year high of 10.1%, further squeezing people's cost of living. Speaking up about our money concerns may help us to manage some of the emotional pressures we face.

An increasing number of people say that rising costs will affect their financial situation, or have already done so. People are also increasingly concerned about the financial impact of higher energy and fuel prices.

Concerns for all three of these financial pressures have increased since the first quarter of 2022, indicates Standard Life consumer research.

Employers may be able to help by normalising conversations about money concerns in the workplace, and understanding the impact finances can have on mental and physical health.

Money talk

With high inflation predicted to continue throughout 2022, and potentially beyond, many employees are likely to face heightened financial pressures. This may affect some employees' mental health.

In fact, more than a quarter (28%) of people say the cost-of-living crisis has already had a negative effect on their mental health , according to research by asset management firm BMO.

Worryingly, 55% of people don't feel comfortable opening up when they have worries about their financial situation, found a study released by the Money and Pensions Service.

The most common reasons for avoiding talking about money are shame, embarrassment and not wanting to burden others, followed by the stress or anxiety such conversations can create.

This problem is even more pronounced among young people. Around 71% of people aged 18-24 worried about money once a week or more in the previous month. Nearly half of young people said they wish they felt more comfortable opening up, but cited feelings of shame as their biggest reason for avoiding it (26%).

It can feel overwhelming to tackle money problems alone - especially in this climate of soaring energy bills and rocketing food prices. By not opening up, however, people might risk damaging relationships or their own emotional wellbeing.

This can sometimes become a negative cycle, with poor mental health affecting our income and outgoings, which in turn further adversely affects our mental health.

Opening up

Starting a conversation about money with friends, families or colleagues can help to provide emotional relief and moral support.

Employers can play a vital role in helping to normalise these conversations. Whenever possible, it is important to provide signposting and support for colleagues. This could either be through a dedicated employee assistance programme or a trained in-house colleague support network/programme.

Little things often make a difference. Through internal communications, employers can demonstrate that they recognise the importance of this issue to their employees, and create safe spaces for people to open up about their concerns.

The broader workplace environment can also help. Space allowing, it may help to have a quiet room in the office and allow employees to take urgent calls there if needed. Where possible, it may also be worth considering if staff need to be in the office every weekday, to help them save on travel costs.

If employees are stressed about the cost of living, then adding additional workplace stress is unlikely to help. Normalising breaks and trying to support flexible working where possible can make a big difference.

Money management

If people don't know how to begin managing their money, there's an increased risk of them avoiding their financial problems, which could lead to them worsening.

Employers can help by pointing employees towards tools to help them budget. They might also be able to help ensure that employees receive any benefits and other support they may be entitled to - some of which employees might not have considered. Online eligibility trackers and calculators may help with this.

When it comes to financial concerns, it's essential for people to remember they are not alone. Many other people are in the same boat or have experienced money worries in the past. Creating a mental-health-supportive workplace can help to manage the pressures many of us may face - before they reach boiling point.

The following articles can provide more cost-of-living support to your employees:

Cost of living pressures: the impact on people's financial plans

Rising cost of living: tips for managing your money

Time to take stock and work on your financial wellbeing

Worried about the impact of inflation on your savings? Here's what to consider

Share via

Related Articles