Why debt shouldn’t be a taboo subject in the workplace

Why debt shouldn’t be a taboo subject in the workplace

Did you know? UK adults are concealing more than £96 billion worth of debt[1]. Many people hide their debt problems from family and friends, and, even worse, try and ignore it themselves. Why? Because debt is often treated like a dark secret. People can feel embarrassed, ashamed and unable to acknowledge that they’re in a problematic situation.

By keeping debt hidden and not addressing the problem directly, the situation can easily spiral out of control. People then become worried, anxious and stressed, which can then have an effect on relationships, work and the overall wellbeing of an individual.

Building conversations about debt into everyday life is therefore important to break the taboo and help individuals build financial confidence to get necessary advice and support early on.

As a business, there are a number of reasons why debt should be on your agenda. That’s why we’ve joined forces with PayPlan to outline why debt shouldn’t be a taboo subject in the workplace.

The cost of silence

Employee wellbeing

Debt can have a negative effect on your employees’ wellbeing. According to PayPlan’s recent survey, almost half of people in debt reported that they had visited a doctor about the effect debt was having on their mental health.

As a result of the taboo surrounding debt, many people feel like they have to conceal the fact they owe money, which can often lead to it not being deal with, which then causes further stress and worry. It’s clear to see how, without being open about debt, the problem can quickly spiral out of control. Debt worries can become so severe that it takes over an individuals’ life and renders them unable to cope.

This can spread further and have an impact on people’s relationships, friendships and have a general impact on their social wellbeing. Because of the stigma attached to it, debt can feel very isolating.

Performance at work

As we’ve just discussed, debt stress is a very real problem and the effects can filter through into various aspects of life.

A third of people in debt worry about how it impacts their performance at work, which comes as no surprise, considering the impact debt can have on individuals’ mental health.

For any of your employees that may be managing one debt or multiple debts, there can be a whole host of worries going through their minds that can distract them from their everyday tasks. They could be struggling with calls from creditors, the threat of bailiffs or debt collectors, or they might be battling with the ongoing worry of how to pay their bills and make ends meet.

All of this can have a detrimental effect on their performance at work, which can then lead to further problems later down the line. That’s why it’s important for employers to ensure that they create an environment where employees feel comfortable seeking help and confronting their debt problems head-on.

How do we tackle this? We talk.

[1] Money Advice Service

Starting a conversation about debt

Removing debt shame

Money is a personal matter, and many people like to keep their financial situation to themselves, but debt in particular has a significant level of shame and embarrassment attached to it.

If your business decides to make a conscious effort to de-stigmatise debt in the workplace, you will send a powerful message to your employees – that debt is not to be ashamed of.

In fact, debt is very common. The average UK household debt stands at £15,400 according to the TUC, and the National Audit Office has reported that up to 8.3 million people in the UK are unable to pay off debts or household bills.

It’s therefore probable that some of your employees are in debt which means that it’s important to create a working environment where debt isn’t demonised, it’s discussed. Making debt a topic of conversation in your business will help to normalise it and show your employees that they’re not alone and should feel comfortable getting help.

Facing the problem head-on

One consequence of debt shame is that it can cause individuals to let their debt problems fester unacknowledged due to the embarrassment they feel. That’s why starting an ongoing conversation about debt in the workplace is important, because it’ll encourage your employees to confront the topic rather than shy away from it.

Ignoring debt might feel like the easiest option to some of your employees, but that will lead to bigger problems. Rather than burying their heads in the sand, your employees should have the confidence and support to face their debts head-on.

Sharing the problem is a step towards solving it. So, by encouraging your employees to be open and honest, you’ll help remove the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude that can be catastrophic in the long run.

Opening the door to solutions

Making efforts to remove the stigma around debt will, as discussed, encourage your employees to change their attitudes and behaviours towards it, and this will mean they’re more likely to go and get the support they need.

Whether that’s in the form of confiding in friends and family, getting in touch with an expert debt advisor, or taking steps to make repayments, there any many ways for your employees to start dealing with debt. As a business, you can hold the door open for solutions and point your employees in the right direction.

PayPlan offer free debt help and debt management plans and have helped over 1 million people take control of their finances.

In fact, seeking debt advice and support has actually been shown to improve wellbeing. PayPlan’s survey revealed that 95% of clients feel confident in managing their money after seeking professional debt advice. 69% said that as a result of seeking help, they can now open up to friends and family about their situation.

If you’d like to support the wellbeing of your employees, discover our health and wellbeing solution ‘the zone’.

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