When employers recognize the interconnectedness of employee wellbeing and business success, they lay the foundation for a sustainable future for their organization. Photo via Getty Images

Inflation impacts everyone, including individuals, the workforce and business leaders. As the cost of living continues to rise, employees face diminishing purchasing power, shrinking retirement savings and higher stress levels.

In PwC’s 2023 Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 57 percent of respondents named finances as the top cause of stress in their lives. With these factors in play, employers should consider the support they provide for employees’ financial health, which directly impacts them emotionally and physically. When any one of these elements are out of alignment, employee productivity and engagement suffer, in turn impacting business success.

The Inflation Conundrum

Inflation is the silent financial predator that affects every aspect of life. Coupled with the financial responsibilities of the workforce, like child or elder care and college tuition, inflation erodes the value of money over time. As prices surge and the purchasing power of the dollar declines, the effects can ripple through a person’s life, including the workplace. Here are several ways inflation can impact employees:

  • Diminished Salary Satisfaction: Inflation does not discriminate. When prices rise, compensation does not follow suit at a one-to-one ratio. This can lead employees to feel their salaries are no longer sufficient to maintain their desired standard of living. Employees who do not have enough for their daily needs are not saving for their future goals, which exacerbates salary dissatisfaction.
  • Eroding Retirement Savings: A 401(k) is a critical component for many employees’ long-term financial strategy. However, inflation can interfere as the cost of living finds employees allocating less to their retirement accounts. Fewer contributions can have a significant long-term impact on the workforce’s financial goals.
  • Increased Stress and Anxiety: Financial insecurity and the higher cost of living can impact mental health. The stress and anxiety common with financial challenges often makes its way into the workplace, resulting in decreased productivity and engagement, interpersonal tension and employees seeking additional or alternative employment opportunities.

The PwC survey underlines how financial stress impacts employees beyond their pocketbooks with 50% or more reporting a negative impact on sleep, mental health and self-esteem. While physical health and relationships at home are not far behind at 44 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

The Holistic Approach to Employee Well-being

In times of economic uncertainty, it becomes vital for employers to prioritize their employees' well-being. A holistic approach, proactively addressing emotional, physical and financial health, can mitigate the negative impacts of inflation and foster a more engaged workforce. A few strategies to consider include:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Employee Assistance Programs are a valuable resource for employees facing personal or financial challenges. These programs provide access to counseling services, financial advice and other forms of support. Offering EAPs demonstrates an employer’s commitment to the overall well-being of their workforce.
  • Greater 401(k) Contributions: Employers can consider increasing the company’s 401(k) contributions in recognition of the strain inflation places on employees' retirement savings. A higher match encourages employees to save more and helps offset the erosion of their retirement savings due to inflation. It is important to note, this is not a short-term solution. Once implemented, it is difficult to walk back these changes without negatively impacting employee morale.
  • Open Communication: Open and transparent communication with employees is always key but is especially paramount to understanding their concerns and needs during periods of inflation. Regular surveys or meetings to gauge employees' financial stress levels and field suggestions for improvement can provide valuable insights.
  • Financial Incentives: Though it is not an immediate fix to immediate financial needs, incentivizing employees to save and invest can be a win-win strategy. Employers can offer financial literacy programs, workshops, or provide bonuses or incentives tied to employees' financial goals. These resources, trainings and initiatives can empower employees to make better informed financial decisions.

The Consequences

Business leaders should realize inflation impacts more than balance sheets, sending shockwaves deep into the health, morale and productivity of their workforce. And when employees are suffering with their mental, physical or financial health, they are more prone to look for employment where these needs are met.

Employers are at a crossroads where they can create a workplace culture that not only supports employees during times of inflation but also fosters resilience and loyalty. EAPs, increased 401(k) contributions, open communication, and financial incentives are just a few of the strategies that employers can implement to ease the burden of inflation on their workforce.

When employers recognize the interconnectedness of employee wellbeing and business success, they lay the foundation for a sustainable future for their organization. Employees can weather the storm and eventually thrive when armed with the proper support and tools.


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Kelly Yeates is vice president of service operations with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

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Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.