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SA workers are highly stressed, leading to R38bn loss in productivity, study finds

The Floatpays survey found that the majority of South Africans were struggling to meet their basic financial obligations, which include everyday expenses such as food, household costs, rent and transport/fuel. | Mndeni Vilakazi

The Floatpays survey found that the majority of South Africans were struggling to meet their basic financial obligations, which include everyday expenses such as food, household costs, rent and transport/fuel. | Mndeni Vilakazi

Published May 21, 2022

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GIVEN MAJOLA

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ALMOST 75 percent of employees rated their level of financial stress as medium to high, according to an inaugural study titled The Floatpays State of Employee Wellbeing Barometer 2022, launched this week.

A recent study, which measured and analysed the experiences of a sample of South Africa’s working population, showed that in South Africa, losses in productivity equated to 128 million days, which accounted for R38 billion, or around 2 percent, of the country’s gross domestic product.

The earned wage access provider and fintech start-up, Floatpays said this arresting reality was compounded by the marked decline in labour productivity across all sectors, as statistics demonstrated.

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Given the fact that the current socio-economic status of South Africa was characterised by record-high unemployment, significant levels of poverty and increasing living costs, the need to implement measures that would increase labour productivity had never been more urgent.

This research suggested that financial stress was a key detractor from employee wellness. It was also an impairment to cognitive functioning which in turn can lead to a reduction in productivity.

The study – which drew on both qualitative and quantitative methodology to inform its approach – involved surveying South African workers who represented a broad demographic in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, province and monthly household income. The study positioned employee wellbeing programmes as a catalyst for change in the country’s labour productivity trajectory.

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Central to the focus of the study were issues relating to financial stress as an important dimension of employee wellbeing.

Floatpays founder and chief executive Simon Ward said with the launch of this study, they hoped to gain insights into the current state of employee wellbeing in South Africa, homing in on the factors that influence labour productivity.

“What we found was that the general wellbeing of South African workers is average at best. When we get to the crux of what constitutes employee wellbeing, two key factors come to the fore: the condition of the working environment and the level of financial stress amongst employees,” Ward said.

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According to the Barometer, one in five employee respondents reported high levels of financial stress. The survey found that the majority of South Africans were struggling to meet their basic financial obligations which include everyday expenses such as food, household costs, rent and transport/fuel.

The survey illustrated the impact of financial stress manifested as a lack of concentration (54 percent), negative mood changes (51 percent), sleeping problems (50 percent) and eating-related issues (23 percent). The knock-on effect of these symptoms includes absenteeism, presenteeism, workplace errors and lower productivity levels.

Ward emphasised the ardent need for employers to acknowledge the linear correlation between financial stress, employee wellness, productivity levels and, ultimately, profitability.

“Employee Wellness Programmes that focus on uplifting and empowering employees by means of financial education and support, have the potential to change the trajectory of labour productivity in South Africa. Financial stress-lower productivity-poorer profitability. It’s a slippery slope that South African employers have the power to curb by taking a holistic approach to nurturing employee wellness,” Ward said.

Evidence suggested that there was a strong business case to be made for providing employees with financial wellbeing support.

The overwhelming majority of survey respondents indicated that having their employer’s support in building their financial well being would change their attitude to work (85 percent), shift their views on management and leadership (83 percent), improve their productivity (85 percent), and contribute positively to their physical and mental health.

Respondents also claimed that interventions like on-demand earned wage access would markedly improve their overall relationship with their employer. As the Barometer demonstrated, the path to employee financial wellbeing needed to be paved with financial know-how on aspects such as better money management, assisting employees to reduce their reliance on debt and encouraging healthy saving habits.

Floatpays chief people officer Andisa Liba said what South African employers needed to realise was that the solution to a more fulfilled, functional and productive workforce was within their grasp.

PERSONAL FINANCE

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