By Scott Anderson and Karley Middleton

When Canadian workers are stressed about their finances, everyone ultimately pays the price.

Financial stressors vary and can include concerns about debt and savings (or lack thereof) for both retirement and children’s education. Employees also worry about paying their basic living costs. And their medical bills rank up there, too.

This kind of stress can’t be compartmentalized. When employees worry, they don’t work. Even when they are physically at the office or on the factory floor, mentally, they’re not. In fact, 67 percent of workers cite financial concerns as a reason why they are less engaged when on the job.

Financial worries can have physical effects, too –30 percent of employees said they were more likely to use health and drug benefits as a result. Of course, there’s also a link to absenteeism. Some 70 percent of unscheduled absences are related to financial stress, and the average cost of related absences tallies up to $3,600 per employee.

That’s a hard cost that employers are now starting to appreciate when it comes to financially driven presenteeism. The Conference Board of Canada looked at two groups of employees – those extremely burdened by financial worries (25 percent of the survey base) and those who are less, but still burdened (41 percent). Not including sick days, the former group spent about an hour a week dealing with financial issues, the second, an hour and a half.

For a business with 250 employees this translates into a total hours of 373 per week lost to presenteeism – or 19,000 per year. Figure an average hourly rate of $30 per employee and you’ll see that disengagement as a result of financial stress costs the organization $600,000 annually, or $3,000 per employee.

Many employers are stepping up by offering financial wellness programs and classes that educate employees on budgeting, saving and investment basics. Because everyone understands the need for financial wellness, it’s a good first step in the right direction.

For more insights, watch our on-demand webinar: Financial Wellness: From active employment to retirement.