In a meeting at work

Business expenses and financial wellbeing

Jeremy Thomson-Cook
Jeremy Thomson-Cook 09 June 2021

Going back to the office is an exciting prospect, but it comes with significant implications. Safety is the foremost concern, but business leaders must not lose sight of financial concerns. Returning to work may feel challenging for some, especially those who have enjoyed spending more time at home and those who have become used to saving money. 

Speaking exclusively to Equals Money, Portia Hickey, a Chartered Psychologist and co-creator of the Thrive Matters Platform, says, “working remotely has been surprisingly successful for many organisations and their teams. Businesses have been able to adapt better than they anticipated, and even improve efficiency. Although the successive lockdowns have been very difficult for many people, they have often created more free time to spend with family or on hobbies due to factors such as no longer needing to travel to work.”

“Businesses have been able to adapt better than they anticipated, and even improve efficiency.”

Portia Hickey, Chartered Psychologist

For better or worse, returning to the office will not mean returning to the same status quo that we left in March of 2020. Fortunately, this provides businesses with an opportunity to shape the “new normal.” One step that we must all push for is a more honest and frank discussion around the “m-word”. Money shouldn’t be taboo – it’s fundamental to the relationship between employer and employee – and it’s a critical part of a person’s wellbeing. 

Here are some ways to have that conversation with your team in a constructive way. 

Have open, honest conversations 

Portia advises that leaders “don’t just assume that everyone will be happy to return to their old working practices. For many, going back to work in an office will mean sacrificing their newfound personal or family time and reduced cost of living, with no discernible benefit.

“The more employers and managers can talk to their teams about the implications of coming back to work on a personal level, the better their chance to find solutions that keep their people engaged. Even if they can’t change anything, taking the time to understand how their people are feeling will enable them to build better working relationships.” 

The reasoning for returning to the office will differ in every case – perhaps one company needs to meet with clients while another has data showing that they collaborate better in person. But in every case, it’s essential to communicate. According to Portia, “the need to return to the office is probably best articulated through a combination of stories and factual evidence, as you are likely to need to win over hearts and minds.” Employees will likely feel happier coming back to the office if they understand why.

“the need to return to the office is probably best articulated through a combination of stories and factual evidence” 

Discussing business expenses 

Both businesses and employees will have new expenditures when offices fully reopen. This puts everyone in the same boat and creates a chance to have a much-needed discussion about spending. It’s a chance for business leaders to express that they understand employees’ concerns and have a productive conversation about business expenses. 

For businesses that have not yet adopted a modern expense management platform, this is the ideal moment to do so. Solutions like our Equals Spend prepaid card (below) provide peace of mind to employees by allowing them to make business purchases directly on a company card. Employees never need to pay out of pocket, and leadership gains real-time insight into spending. Receipts are easily captured and stored before they can be lost or forgotten, and everybody saves time. 

Equals Money expense management

However, even the best business expense platform can’t operate in a vacuum – it must be backed up by a clear, fair policy. This saves employees stress and clarifies what is and isn’t a reasonable expense, saving the business headaches in the long term. Solutions like Equals Spend make it easy to apply the policy by setting limits on the cards for the amount employees can spend without approval and the types of purchases they can make.  

Reconsider workplace benefits 

While it was once considered trendy to have bean-bag chairs and table tennis in the office, today’s employees are after something more fundamental when it comes to benefits: financial wellbeing. At the end of the day, all of the office amenities in the world can’t make someone feel comfortable if they’re lying awake at night worrying about their finances. 

One option for supporting employees’ finances is offering confidential support from a third party. Bringing in a financial advisor once a month, for instance, gives your employees a direct line to professional money management advice, which they may not be able to afford at their own expense. This benefit is particularly valued by younger employees who are still getting on their feet financially and employees going through a significant life change like moving home or starting a family. 

Salary sacrifice programmes are another popular form of financial benefit. If the cost of commuting is a concern for staff, implementing a cycle-to-work or annual train pass scheme is a material way that a business can make a difference. Employees save on taxes, and they will be able to create an affordable payment plan. 

Some businesses have recently started offering third-party saving schemes and loans for employees, such as corporate ISAs. Employees may prefer to contribute to their savings directly from their pay, which is an excellent way to avoid the temptation to spend the cash they want to save.  

Money, money, money 

So many job decisions are about money at their root, and it’s absurd to treat the topic as taboo. Now, we have the chance to make a fundamental change in the way we talk about money. Open conversations about the cost of commuting, business expenses and financial wellbeing are better for everybody – so let’s overcome our British sensibilities and start saying the “m-word.”

Keen to learn more about how your business can get more for its money? You can read about our expense management and global payments technology solutions, or even how faster payments can benefit your company via our blog.