Employers could lose up to $250 billion a year in lost wages due to employees’ stress about their personal finances, according to a survey from Mercer.

Mercer released the second installment of the Inside Employee Minds Financial Wellness survey, which is based on insights from more than 3,000 workers.

The survey determined that the average time an employee spends worrying about personal finances while at work was 13 hours per month and the median was five hours per month.

Using this data, Mercer developed a calculation to determine the percentage of an employer’s total payroll that is at risk of being spent on employees unproductively worrying about their personal finances during work hours.

Mercer found that approximately 5% of an organization’s total payroll is at risk from time unproductively spent worrying. On an estimated total U.S. wage bill of $5 trillion, this could be costing employers up to $250 billion each year, according to Mercer.

While employers will likely never be able to reduce the payroll risk to $0, effective financial wellness can at least increase the usefulness of these hours. Rather than powerlessly worrying for five hours a month while at work, an employee can use those hours to take effective steps toward improving their financial health.

“Financial stress has a clear cost to employers, and the survey shows offering a financial wellness program has both tangible and intangible rewards for employers looking to differentiate their brand, improve the engagement of their people and add to the bottom line in terms of enhanced productivity,” Betsy Dill, U.S. financial wellness leader at Mercer, which provides employee financial wellness programs, said in a statement.

According to the survey, employees with access to financial wellness programs have over twice the job satisfaction and higher levels of trust than those without access.

According to Dill, “we are seeing a significant increase in the number of employers developing financial wellness programs.”

However, the hesitancy to share personal financial information with an employer or employer-provided vendor may be a barrier for some participants, the survey found.

When asked about how they preferred their employer to be involved with helping with financial decisions, survey respondents indicated the strongest interest in their employer bringing in financial experts to provide training, education and advice.

Responses indicate that employees don’t want their employer directly involved with their personal finances but respond favorably to the idea of getting referrals or access to financial experts provided by or endorsed by the employer.

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