New research shows Kiwi workers feeling financial stress

The cost-of-living crisis is having a significant negative impact on the mental health and productivity of the majority of New Zealand workers, according to the latest quarterly ELMO Employee Sentiment Index, with women being hardest hit.

A statement from the company says that despite working longer hours, taking on extra responsibilities at work and hoarding annual leave, financial stress and job insecurity are taking a toll on employees.

The new research found that 57 percent of New Zealand workers believe the increase in the cost of living has had a negative impact on their mental health. Women were significantly more likely to report a negative impact (66 percent) compared to men (49 percent).

It says almost half of Kiwi employees felt that financial stress was impacting their physical health (46 percent), while a third (34 percent) felt it was impacting their productivity in their job.

At the same time, the study revealed that more than a quarter of New Zealand workers have resorted to selling their personal possessions to help make ends meet. Women were more likely to be turning to online marketplaces with 32 percent selling off personal possessions compared to 18 percent of men.

ELMO Software CEO and Co-Founder Danny Lessem says it is concerning to see the disproportionate impact on women, who are already facing barriers in the workplace.

“Historically, we know women are more likely to be underemployed and feel they’re not working enough hours – and that’s something that came through in our results. Almost a quarter of women (23 percent) believe they aren’t working enough hours, compared to just 13 percent of men.”

According to the survey, almost two thirds (63 percent) of New Zealand employees have made at least one change to their lifestyle to help offset increases in the cost of living. Almost one third (30 percent) have cancelled their subscription to streaming services such as Netflix, Binge or Stan, while 26 percent have unsubscribed from shopping/product emails. One third (33 percent) of women have hit the unsubscribe button, compared to one fifth (20 percent) of men.

Other actions taken include returning an impulse buy (18 percent) and cancelling or removing a credit card from their phone (11 percent)

However, in a sign that financial stress is hitting younger workers harder, only 38 percent of Baby Boomers were likely to have made a change to offset cost of living increases compared to 53 percent of Gen X, 76 percent of Millennials and 85 percent of Gen Z.

Elmo says that alongside significant financial stress, job security is front and centre of workers’ minds with 21 percent of workers anticipating there will be redundancies at their company in the next three months and the same number concerned that their role will be the one to be axed.

Fear of redundancy is leading to a significant number of employees taking on extra responsibilities or putting in extra hours in a bid to safeguard their jobs. Over 54 percent of New Zealand employees have taken on extra responsibilities that are not part of their job description in the last three months, with 27 percent working harder or longer hours to keep their jobs safe.

As a last resort, 20 percent of New Zealand workers have saved their annual leave in the last three months in case of a redundancy.

Lessem says it is clear that increasing financial and job insecurity is exacting a significant toll on the wellbeing of employees, particularly women and younger workers.

“These findings should serve as a wake-up call that to avert a burnout crisis, companies need to take proactive steps to support their employees, whether that is through financial education, mental health support or flexible working arrangements.”

The research also highlights the need for an effective expenses management process, with Lessem saying that as the cost of living continues to rise, “it is important that companies have a timely expenses management process in place to ensure their employees are not left struggling financially. Last year, the average claim submitted through ELMO Expenses was around $600. For many, that’s a significant sum of cash to be owed.”

The research was commissioned by ELMO Software and conducted by Lonergan Research which surveyed 514 New Zealand workers aged 18 years and over between 15 March 2023 to 22 March 2023.  See

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