COVID puts new focus on your benefits: 5 smart tips for this open enrollment season.

Dramatic shifts in the way your employees live and work--from COVID to telework--have changed what people want (and expect) from benefits plans.

"During the pandemic, virtual interactions created a new level of transparency and empathy at work, prompting business leaders to reconsider which types of benefits were most useful to their employees," said Johnny Taylor, CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management.

To make open enrollment run smoother this year, follow these tips:

  1. Urge employees to reassess their benefits needs. In the past, most employees just chose the same benefits plan each year. But the pandemic changed many employees' situations and benefit needs. Encourage workers to invest more time researching the right coverage. And see if benefits providers offer tools to help workers determine their current needs.

  2. Solidify plans for remote enrollment. Work with benefits providers to ensure online enrollment goes smoothly. Benefits websites are notoriously difficult to use. Make sure customer service reps will be available to help employees as they sign up.

  3. Promote health benefits literacy.

    Eliminate some employee questions by making sure they know the lingo. What's the difference between a co-pay and coinsurance? What's balance billing? Highlight the glossary of health benefit terms each benefits summary includes.

  4. Open your communications toolbox. In addition to mailing out info packets, use email, social media and easy-to-use web-based calculators and tools. Make sure all communication includes a reply email address so workers can get answers to questions.

  5. Provide plenty of time to enroll.

    Employees are making important decisions, especially this year. Tell them to take the time to review all that information. Suggest having family conversations about benefits choices. Expect an increase in emails after employees and their spouses have a weekend to dig through the...

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