After more than a year of working from home, many employees are slowly starting to return to the office. But despite this return to quasi-normalcy, the business landscape, including how we work, has undoubtedly been changed forever. As we continue to get used to this new normal, there are some things that are non-negotiable, one of the most notable being virtual open enrollment. Benefits professionals across the world embraced this concept in 2020 because there truly was no other option but let’s explore what open enrollment will look like for 2021 - and uncover why virtual solutions aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
The New Normal
The new normal is understandably very cautious. Many people still hesitate to leave their homes and interact with others. Despite an increasingly vaccinated population, mask-wearing and social distancing will be part of our daily routine for the foreseeable future.
This prolonged isolation has forced your employees to re-think their priorities and redesign their lives. They’ve set up home offices to do their jobs, created makeshift classrooms to educate their children, and learned how to simultaneously juggle both worlds on the fly. Now that they’ve grown accustomed to these arrangements, many of your workers are likely unwilling (or unable) to go back to the way things were.
What Employees Expect
For more than a year, your employees have proven that they can effectively and productively work from home. Because of this, their expectations have understandably changed. Many will desire continued flexibility related to where and how they work. In response, many employers are choosing to allow their team members to work remotely indefinitely. Other firms are moving to a hybrid model where staff come into the office on some days and work remotely on others. Unless your business truly needs workers to be on-site, your company should consider accommodating employees who don’t want to come into the office full time to meet this changing demand.
Your employees also expect to see changes to their benefits packages and the way they enroll in new benefits. This is where a virtual open enrollment experience comes into play.
Since much of your workforce is (and may continue to be) remote, your employees need a way to access important benefits resources virtually. Your company should provide all benefits-related communication and education digitally so that any worker with an internet signal can access it. Your firm also needs an online enrollment process that employees can complete quickly and easily wherever they are and from whatever device they choose whether it’s a laptop, tablet, or cell phone.
Virtual Open Enrollment in 2021
As you probably experienced last year, taking your open enrollment virtual required significant planning and preparation. You had to quickly develop a virtual strategy and determine appropriate timelines (for example, your employees should have started hearing about open enrollment two or three months in advance). Then, you had to execute on these plans with solid communication pieces and resources.
To set your company up for another effective virtual open enrollment, here are a few best practices that can help you stay prepared:
- Create a simple, clear communications strategy that reaches team members across different channels such as email, text message, and the company intranet. Learn from what you did last year - keep what worked and either re-work, or nix, the pieces that didn’t.
- Cater to different learning styles by sharing information via various mediums, such as videos, written documents, and interactive tools. Every employee consumes information differently, and by providing various methods, you can ensure you’re covering all the bases.
- When communicating benefits, speak to a variety of life stages and goals, like paying for a college education, caring for children, or saving for retirement. You likely have employees who are in very different life stages, so make sure your communications are tailored to their needs.
- Contact your firm’s benefits broker and plan providers. They may be able to send helpful resources you can share with employees and now that this is year two of virtual open enrollment, they probably have even better resources than last year!
- Host multiple virtual group meetings to discuss this year’s benefits package and how to enroll. Vary the days and times to make sure employees can attend no matter what their schedule looks like.
- Make it easy for your employees. Provide clear details on where employees should enroll and send multiple reminders to do so - especially as open enrollment comes to a close.
- Gauge the effectiveness of your virtual open enrollment by reviewing enrollment metrics and surveying employees. After all, how else will you know your efforts were successful?
Remember: Your employees need your firm’s support to select and enroll in the benefits that they need. That means your company must communicate continuously throughout the open enrollment period. If it feels like overkill to send that next benefits-related email, you’re probably on the right track. Send it anyway.
How to Make Virtual Open Enrollment Easy
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with all of the information you just read, don’t! There is a simple solution to taking open enrollment virtual and that solution is benefits decision support. When you implement a decision support solution like Picwell into your organization, your open enrollment process will become much less stressful for your human resources and benefits department - and much more effective for your workforce.
Picwell DX can help your team execute on all of the best practices listed above. When you work with Picwell, your HR and Benefits team will receive a Customer Success Toolkit containing tried and true communication pieces that you can easily adjust and send to your employees. It thoroughly describes the virtual open enrollment process and ensures your employees aren’t left in the dark. And after open enrollment is over, Picwell even provides Post-Enrollment Insights Reports containing key metrics so you can evaluate and determine how successful your virtual open enrollment was.
All of this support means reduced costs for your staff, increased employee satisfaction (and all that comes with it), and a smooth open enrollment period.
Let’s face it, the pandemic has forced employees and employers to re-think what work should look like - now and in the future. And for many team members, there’s no going back to the old ways. Remote work and hybrid arrangements are here to stay, and so is the need for virtual resources. The sooner your company recognizes this shift, and adapts its benefits plans and open enrollment practices accordingly, the sooner it will be poised for success in the years ahead. The best way to begin this process is by using a comprehensive benefits decision support solution like Picwell. Schedule a demo today, so you can empower wise choices tomorrow.