CEOs are often asked, “What keeps you up at night?” and answers, while varied, typically center around finances and talent. At Filene, we think an equally compelling question is, “What keeps your staff up at night?”


In Filene’s report, “The Case for Workplace Financial Well-being: The View from Credit Unions,” we did ask. Their answers? Money. More than half of all credit union employees admitted to feeling stressed by their finances. This stress spills into their work, leading to disengagement, decreased performance, increased absenteeism, poorer mental and physical health, and delayed retirement.

Not only is this a real and serious threat to the well-being of credit union frontline staff, but stress over income insecurity has a real business cost. According to Filene’s Cost of Financial Distractions calculator, an organization with 100 full-time employees can expect to see approximately 30 employees distracted by financial stress, with 46% of those, or 14 employees, spending at least three hours per week on finances while at work. This adds up to 1,904 hours lost to employee distraction about finances and $77,319 financial loss due to lost productivity annually. And this was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.


The COVID-19 pandemic has created one of the most widespread public health crises of our lifetime. Beyond the physiological effects of the disease, credit union leaders should consider the mental health impact of COVID-19 on their staff. A Filene report published this month by Dr. Hammad S. N’cho on “Trauma-Informed Services for Credit Union Employees” offers a wealth of information on crisis management, return-to-office (RTO) strategies, stigma mitigation programs, mental health promotion and growth after adversity. With actionable steps to guide the development of credit union policy, practices and decisions, this report provides a comprehensive discussion that addresses key challenges and informs next steps for trauma-informed employee policy and practices.

This is by no means small or easy work. For the past 16 months, credit unions have been tasked with identifying strategies for keeping staff and facilities safe, and with navigating COVID-19 and trauma exposures, all while maintaining high-quality service to members. Key tactics for an equitable, trauma-informed policy that promotes psychological safety and mental health include:

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