In the midst of the ongoing global pandemic, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what this fall will look like. Some cities are opening back up, others are back on lockdown, and employers are left wondering whether or not to open the office again.
And a lot is still unclear when it comes to open enrollment planning, too. How will employers best support their employees, who have growing health and financial concerns? While many of us are working from home, how do companies plan to reach employees virtually?
To find out, we recently spoke with Jellyvision customers, including several Fortune 500 companies, about how prepared they’re feeling for open enrollment this year, along with the biggest strategy changes they’re anticipating. Here’s what they had to say.
How prepared are employers for open enrollment?
The good news is that most employers have started preparing for open enrollment in one way or another. But there’s a broad spectrum when it comes to just how prepared they’re feeling.
Have you already started planning for open enrollment?
Although a vast majority of employers have started planning, many say they’re in the early stages, or are just now starting to think about how they’ll connect with employees virtually this year.
It’s no surprise why employers are feeling the heat. They’re faced with limited budgets, are revamping their open enrollment tactics to reach employees at home, and are adding new COVID-related information to their promotional materials. For many, a complete open enrollment strategy overhaul is in order—so planning is taking a lot more time than usual.
How will open enrollment be different this year?
COVID-19 has turned the world upside down, leaving us craving stability. Most of our customers told us they’re not changing much about their actual benefits offerings this year, in an effort to maintain some consistency.
But they will be changing their approach to employee communication—finding new ways to connect, focusing on new messages, and changing timelines. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Start dates are in flux
In response to COVID-19, many employers are changing when they plan to execute open enrollment this year.
Many are starting later than usual because they’re behind on planning. Others are starting sooner because they know employees have evolving health needs this year, and an earlier open enrollment will give them a chance to change plans if they need it.
Others are moving their start date because they’re assessing new benefits providers that better suit their current needs, and are adjusting their open enrollment schedule accordingly.
2. Communication will be early and often
Because so much is changing, employers told us that they’ll be communicating with their employees more frequently this year. Many said they’ll start promoting open enrollment earlier, and will be sending more touch points throughout the season.
Others said they plan to break communication into more bite-sized pieces so that employees aren’t overwhelmed with new information. And because it’s more challenging to reach employees remotely, some companies said they’re relying on team managers to increase communication.
3. (Almost) everything will be digital
It’s no surprise that a digital approach to communication will be the name of the game this year. With many of us still working from home, the old in-person benefits meetings and posters around the office won’t work anymore, so HR leaders are thinking about how to adapt.
Many companies are considering a virtual benefits fair, in partnership with their providers. They’re also thinking about hosting self-hosted webinars, virtual office hours where employees can ask 1:1 questions, and texting as a new form of communication.
Others mentioned that they’re looking for creative ways to catch employees’ eyes—so in addition to going digital, they’re thinking about sending open enrollment postcards or other mailers to their employees’ homes.
4. The biggest focus will be telemedicine and mental health
When asked which employee support resources are getting the most focus right now, employers told us that they’re promoting telemedicine most frequently. 48% said they’re making it a priority, and many are offering telemedicine for free to employees and expanding who’s eligible to use the program for a limited period of time.
Mental health services are also a major focus as employees are looking for ways to cope with stress and uncertainty, along with dependent care resources for those who are caring for children or elderly parents in quarantine.
Areas of Focus for Supporting Employees during COVID
There’s no doubt about it—this year’s open enrollment will be especially challenging, and big changes are ahead of us. But if you’re like many of our customers, who are short on time and behind on planning, we’re here to help. Check out our Ultimate Open Enrollment Playbook for everything you need to build your COVID-era strategy, and feel free to reach out if you’d like to learn more about how our customers are dealing with the current moment.