Mark Pemberthy: Keeping the Christmas cheer in your office this year

The festive season is one of the happiest times of the year, with the Christmas break allowing millions of people around Britain to spend quality time with loved ones. However, it’s also a time when spending habits change dramatically – the Bank of England found that a typical household spends an extra £800 in December compared to the usual monthly average spending.

Additional expenditure in the lead up to the festive period can leave many feeling vulnerable about their financial situation as the pressure to buy gifts and attend social events increases. Visiting family over the holiday can also become expensive, particularly if it involves travel and train fares. It’s easy to see how the additional costs can mount up and become overwhelming.

Bah humbug

Juggling present buying and everything else you need for the big day at once can cause people to go over-budget, as they might not account for the holiday season far enough in advance. Leaving the majority of this extra spending to December is tempting but, not spreading the cost can lead people into more debt as well as causing panic-buying. Research from insurance firm Bobatoo found that, while 60 per cent of people set a spending budget for Christmas, around a quarter expect to go over that budget. This could come in the form of extending an overdraft, taking out a loan or maxing out a credit card, all of which can deepen financial concerns.

It’s well-known that financial concerns negatively impact mental health, productivity and the ability to concentrate. Research by Salary Finance in 2018 found that the 40 per cent of respondents who were worried about money were nearly nine times more likely to have sleepless nights. Not only does this have a detrimental affect on personal health, it can lead to a lack of ability to concentrate and lower productivity in the workplace.

Staff retention can also prove to be an issue. Workers who experience financial worries over this period may start to see the new year as an opportunity to move elsewhere if another job is offering them higher pay. Glassdoor found that January was the month employees were most likely to think about changing jobs and the top motivation was low salary in their current position. In turn, this has knock on effects on office morale, which is more keenly felt over the festive season, while a sense of apathy can develop about helping the business reach its full potential.

Making sure it’s a Merry Christmas

Luckily, there are a number of workplace initiatives that employers can embrace to alleviate some of the financial concerns staff may have. For example, introducing flexible working hours during December can help staff meet the demands of attending family or business events, as well as spend less time and money on their commutes.

Implementing schemes that help staff build long term financial resilience will also help. It’s a hard subject to broach, and the majority of staff might not feel able talk about it openly, but it’s important to address it head on especially with Christmas on the horizon. If employers can increase the uptake of financial education tools or benefits offerings, staff might feel more equipped to manage their money day to day, as well as build up adequate savings to pay for Christmas as well as saving for the future beyond Christmas. This is important to promote across the whole year, but the seasonal holidays are particularly expensive, so the more employers can do to help staff feel financially stable the better.

On a more pastoral level, the risk of employees feeling overwhelmed with workload can increase as time runs out to hit yearly targets. To ease the burden, employers should account for the annual leave staff will inevitably take over the holidays and work these factors into setting realistic goals.

Tis the season to be jolly

The joy and celebration associated with the Christmas season can hide the fact many will be overstretching their finances. It is worth employers looking into the best ways to help before they experience a detrimental impact in the workplace with lower morale and productivity.

Employers have a number of cost-effective options to help resolve issues, including the promotion of current wellbeing offerings such as flexible working and help with financial concerns. By taking this path, employers can help staff enjoy their work and Christmas more and ensure a Merry Christmas for all.





Mark Pemberthy is Head of DC & Wealth at Buck. For over 25 years Mark has advised companies and trustees across a broad range of industries, adapting pension strategies to meet the evolving needs of clients and changes in legislation. Mark leads a team of DC pension and employee benefit consultants in delivering and developing DC pension, workplace saving and financial wellbeing solutions for clients.