PhotoTo give some indication of the financial challenges facing the average consumer, a survey finds money worries have become a significant distraction for employees during working hours.

Not Facebook, not chain emails, not weight loss – worries about money.

Although many U.S. businesses have recovered from the Great Recession many of the people who work at those businesses haven't. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) says those worries are now a huge drain on employee productivity.


Here's what the 2014 SHRM survey Financial Wellness in the Workplace found:

  • Seven out of 10 human resource professionals said that personal financial challenges have a large or some impact on their employees' performance.
  • More than 40% said employees' difficulty in covering personal expenses is having a workplace impact.
  • Almost 40% of employees are facing greater personal financial challenges now compared with the onset of the recession in 2007.
  • Nearly 25% of human resources professionals said employees are experiencing more personal financial challenges now compared with 12 months ago.

And that's just the HR professionals who are attuned to the financial difficulty their employees face. Others could be clueless.

The survey also uncovered this alarming fact -- employees were 60% more likely to tap their retirement account for a loan than in previous years and 44% more likely to ask for a hardship withdrawal from retirement savings.

Bad for business

This isn't just bad for individual employees, SHRM warns. It's bad for business.

"Business leaders should be troubled that many of our nation's workers continue to face financial hardships and related stress, especially during working hours," said Shawn Gilfedder, President and CEO McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union, which sponsored the SHRM survey. "Companies can and should take action to help employees effectively address their financial concerns, which will help improve the lives of workers and their families and also help strengthen company performance."

How do money-worried employees impact a firm's bottom line? This video, produced by a provider of corporate financial wellness programs, illustrates it pretty well.

Story continues below video.

Financial education

What can companies do? There are "financial wellness" education programs that can give employees tools and support to manage their personal finances. Some companies have provided them but others haven't – in part because they might be viewed as too costly.

"With the influence that financial challenges have on employees and their performance, the survey suggests that employers will find value in offering financial education to their workforce," said Bruce Elliott, SHRM's manager of compensation and benefits.

Gilfedder says there are actually some financial wellness programs that carry no cost to the employer. Many credit unions offer these no-cost programs, as do some financial services firms.

Gilfedder suggests companies that implement these programs can help reduce employee financial stress, enhance employee retention, build loyalty and ultimately, improve company productivity and performance. 

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