Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Stress over household expenses a bigger headache for women than men

Financial stress about household expenses can make female employees less productive and employers should ensure a better employee experience.

Women employees are more affected by financial stress over household expenses, according to recent research into the state of employee wellbeing, that revealed a number of factors that affect labour productivity.

The research conducted by on-demand earned wage access provider, Floatpays, shows that financial wellness is a key factor in overall employee wellbeing and ultimately their productivity and revealed specific gender nuances when it comes to financial wellbeing.

The most important difference was the main source of financial stress for women compared to men, that showed that more women than men attributed their financial stress to the pressures of caretaking responsibilities and the cost of maintaining a household.

Andisa Liba, chief people officer at Floatpays, says this is not surprising considering that 42.1% of households in South Africa are headed by women.

The study was conducted to provide insight into the factors driving the current state of employee wellbeing in South Africa, with the ultimate aim of helping businesses improve productivity levels through the optimisation of employee wellbeing programmes.

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The gender dimension of financial stress

Focusing on the aspect of financial stress as a contributing factor to employee wellness, the study segmented its respondents according to several demographics including ethnicity, age, income bracket and gender. One of the most compelling findings highlighted the plight of women.

According to the study, 57% of women attribute their financial stress to household expenses as opposed to 49% of men. In addition, the study indicated that the cost of food affects 52% of women compared to 42% of men.

“These findings indicate the gender-specific challenges which need to be tackled at the level of the workplace because this stress ultimately affects the bottom line,” Liba says.

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Financial stress and labour productivity

The study showed that all employees who experience financial stress report sleeping problems, difficulty concentrating and a negative impact on their mood. However, the proportion of women who experience low emotional states is almost 10% higher than for their male counterparts.

“Financial stress is a key trigger of a negative chain reaction that results in challenges, such as absenteeism, low presenteeism and workplace errors, which has an impact on productivity. Financial stress is the opposite of financial wellbeing and because such a large component of employee wellness relates to the financial state of employees, this should be a major concern for South African employers.”

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Ensuring a better employee experience

However, Liba says, working towards a better employee experience is a multi-dimensional endeavour, which includes, but is not limited to aspects such as fair compensation. For women in particular, access to learning and development opportunities were valued more highly when compared to men, according to the study.

These learning opportunities extend to professional development, but also include education on aspects of financial management which include learning how to be better financially prepared for an emergency, maintaining a healthy level of debt and managing cash flow between pay checks.

A total of 89% of female respondents in the study expressed a need to be educated on how to manage their money better. Liba says there is a business case to be made for employers to offer this kind of training at work, since financial wellness impacts productivity.

“Solutions to better employee wellness, such as financial management skills development, needs to take the prevailing gender nuances into account. Women, who carry most of the domestic caretaking load, can benefit immensely from education on how to handle their money more efficiently and practical tools to assist them with managing their cash flow from pay day to pay day better and saving in the context of limited financial resources.”

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