It’s no secret that financial stress can cause us sleepless nights and affect our personal relationships. It’s also not surprising to learn that money anxiety haunts us on the job too. A new survey by the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA) has found that workers worried about bills are less productive and that “financial stress deducts nearly $16 billion a year in lost productivity from the Canadian economy”.

The survey also found absenteeism is higher among financially stressed employees. They are also more likely to leave their jobs and use more health and wellness benefits, costing the company higher insurance premiums. All of this, the CPA says, decreases job satisfaction and lowers morale at work.

“The costs of financial stress on people, their families, businesses and the economy are staggering,” says Peter Tzanetakis, President of the CPA. “Much like mental health, for Canadian businesses struggling to identify strategic advantages in a very competitive environment, actively addressing the financial wellness of employees could provide a competitive edge and deliver bottom-line results.”

In another report on financial stress and the workplace by Manulife Financial called “The Power of Financially Secure Employees,” 75 per cent of people reported feeling high stress levels. They reported the state of their finances is partly or entirely to blame. Most of those surveyed said they were at least 16 per cent less productive because of financial stress.

Fraser Wiswell, a VP at Manulife Financial, says, “It’s not just about the day-to-day productivity; it’s the longer-term plan of employees sticking around, being productive and staying loyal to the organization.” He adds, “The other side of it is, if you reduce people’s anxieties …so they can bring their best to work every day, that helps companies thrive.”

Will Wilson is a Toronto-based freelance photographer who knows first-hand how financial stress can affect work. He says the high cost of living in the city and family financial obligations keep him working long hours, holding down a full-time and freelance job. He feels he has no choice even at the risk of burn out.

“You want to be able to put food on the table; pay your dog bills at the vet; pay your other bills on time and not worry about rent,” Wilson says. “I had to get my car repaired the other day which cost me $450 which was unexpected. There are always variables that change the stress meter.”

According to Wiswell, companies can help their employees feel financially secure by offering comprehensive employee retirement savings plans, as well as helping workers budget and save better. He believes companies should put the same effort into retention as they do into recruitment.

“At the end of the day, companies do so much to make sure they hire great people, train them and get them up to top performance, and it’s really easy for that to be thrown off by employees who are feeling stressed and financially unwell,” Wiswell says. In his experience, financial stress spares no one at work and can affect anyone at any job level.

For most of us, our job and the ability to earn income is the major source of our wealth. To protect that earning potential, we need to put our financial health first. Sometimes seeking help from experienced professionals is the best investment to gain peace-of-mind and avoid unnecessary distractions at work and in our leisure time. Having a clear financial picture allows us to put our efforts into where they matter the most. Make 2020 the year of getting your financial life in order so you can stress less and enjoy life more!

Rubina is a freelance journalist and personal finance expert. She works for several media outlets including CBC Radio and Television, Global News Radio and Global News Toronto. She also has a long-running finance column with Homes Publishing Group. You can follow her on Twitter @alwayssavemoney