Why the rising cost-of-living crisis is draining workforce productivity


Zellis, the HR and payroll specialists, disclosed that 77% of UK and Ireland’s workforce has been under financial stress in the past year.

This stress seems more prevalent among those under 35 years, with 83% of them expressing financial anxieties. Alarmingly, almost half of the responding workforce confirmed that their financial worries were severe enough to cause sleep disturbances, which subsequently resulted in decreased productivity during work hours.

The rising cost-of-living in the UK has become a prominent concern, with surging mortgage rates and climbing food prices negatively affecting employees in various ways. Zellis’s survey, conducted in July 2023, aimed to decipher how this ongoing crisis was impacting people’s professional lives.

A staggering 54% of participants who faced financial distress in the last year acknowledged its adverse effect on their workplace productivity. Interestingly, the numbers were more pronounced for younger workers (61% under 35) and men (63%) as compared to their female counterparts (50%).

Zellis Chief Innovation Officer Gethin Nadin said, “Our research shows that two of the most pressing socio-economic challenges in the UK are related: the crisis of persistent low productivity growth across the economy, and the extremely low levels of mental and physical health across the workforce.

“Performance is important to wellbeing, with employees getting a sense of purpose and belonging at work by being successful. With financial worries clearly impacting workers across the UK, it’s more critical than ever for business leaders to start thinking of investment in wellbeing not as an insurance against people falling ill in the future, but as a means to drive greater performance and productivity today.”

Jacqui Summons, Chief People Officer at EMIS Health and Non-Executive Director at Zellis, remarked, “It’s striking that so many employees are now reporting that they feel stressed or anxious about their finances. The fact that the research shows such a clear link between financial wellbeing and performance at work should make business leaders in all industries stand up and take notice. Employee wellbeing is rightly regarded as a key component of talent acquisition and retention strategies but there is evidently a business benefit as well.”

The ramifications of financial stress at the workplace include not only fatigue from sleep loss (45%) but also diminished concentration (33%), an increased rate of errors (17%), and hampered communication abilities (14%). Furthermore, the survey spotlighted an uptick in the number of employees meticulously inspecting their payslips – 56% in 2023 up from 43% in 2022.

However, despite the surge in attention, many remain perplexed about their payslip details. About 43% feel unequipped to spot tax code errors, while 39% wouldn’t recognise a pension contribution mistake. Shockingly, nearly 20% of employees doubt their ability to identify even gross and net pay discrepancies on their payslips.

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