DURING times of economic uncertainty, it's normal for company bosses to explore every nook and cranny in search of opportunities to increase efficiencies.
DURING times of economic uncertainty, it’s normal for company bosses to explore every nook and cranny in search of opportunities to increase efficiencies.
One opportunity, however, is regularly overlooked.
According to financial commentator Paul Clitheroe, stress-related absences from work are often linked to concerns over personal financial circumstances.
He said a reduction in absences and improved productivity could be obtained by educating a workplace in these matters.
Organisations including Australia Post, football clubs and even the military have taken an interest in the program headed by the federal government’s Financial Literacy Board, which was established in 2005.
“People at Australia Post weren’t coming to work because of financial stress,” Mr Clitheroe, the board’s chairman, told WA Business News last week on a visit to Perth.
The board has identified a few key targets where it believes people can most benefit from financial literacy, such as in the workplace, at university and at school.
“We know the kids doing this training are in better charge of their phone bills,” Mr Clitheroe said.
Young mining company fly-in, fly-out workers earning good money are among those seen as potential beneficiaries of financial literacy training in Western Australia.
Mr Clitheroe is also an advocate of education over regulation, with a goal of helping Australians identify risky investments that offer rates of return well above those offered by the banks.
Bosses seeking literacy training for their staff would usually be put in contact with a superannuation provider or financial planning office, both of which would view the training as a business opportunity.
Mr Clitheroe said the idea of financial literacy was gaining traction with church groups, and he expected to report reductions in divorce rates for couples that learned how to discuss, budget and generally control their finances.
Charlie Brown, the chief executive of the Financial Counsellors Association of Western Australia, said there were all sorts of societal problems caused by financial stress, which lead to distress, dysfunction and depression.
“Even when they are at work their minds are somewhere else,” he said.
FCAWA is a government-funded organisation with 85 members who provide free advice to the community – usually in matters stemming from home repossession, unpaid bills and out-of-control debt – and regularly partners with church groups and local councils.
Mr Brown said there had been an increase in the number of highly geared people with million dollar problems seeking help as a result of the financial crisis, as opposed to the traditional clientele who were dealing with much smaller debts.
“People have got themselves fairly finely tuned,” he said.
Mr Brown also blames many workplace accidents on lack of concentration caused by financial stress.