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Lessons Learned from Open Enrollment During the Pandemic

Lessons Learned from Open Enrollment During the Pandemic

4 minute read

Open enrollment itself is challenging enough most years to engage and educate employees about their benefits. The pandemic added another layer of complexity as employers dealt with remote and hybrid workplaces. Open enrollment processes had to be reimagined and different tactics were tried.

Here are some key findings and lessons learned from last year’s open enrollment and how employers can best prepare for the 2021 season.


More time is needed to plan and promote

Successful open enrollment campaigns start engaging employees months before enrollment starts. That means offerings need to be reviewed sooner rather than later to provide ample time to develop and execute a successful open enrollment campaign or strategy.

During the pandemic, employers leaned heavily on employee assistance programs, employer-sponsored mental health resources, and other virtual resources. Benefits mattered even more to employees and that gave employers an opportunity to showcase all the available perks as soon as possible to retain and engage employees.


Holistic Benefits

Employee benefits should be designed to provide holistic support for the employee. Many benefits or arrangements began out of necessity due to the pandemic like telecommuting. Now many employees want at least some of these benefits to become permanent.

The top benefits that employees are looking for right now include mental health resources, telecommuting, flexible or hybrid scheduling, and caregiving benefits. If employers are unsure what employees want, they should consider surveying their employees or have one-on-one meetings to learn which benefits they find most valuable.


More Personalization and Interactivity

Now more than ever, employees want to know that their employers care about them and open enrollment isn’t just a transaction. Each employee has unique personal needs. For many, the pandemic created or amplified their physical, mental, or financial challenges. Employers or benefit providers need to be available for individual questions and to help guide employees through the process or available options. This personalized touch can help increase benefits utilization.


Virtual Open Enrollment Options

The pandemic shifted many open enrollments to go digital. According to a survey by WEX:

  • For the 2020 enrollment, 67% of employer delivered open enrollment education differently due to the pandemic. Tactics include virtual open enrolment fairs, live webinars, and online chats during scheduled times to address questions.
  • Of those employers who added virtual engagement methods to their open enrollment strategy, 85% said they will continue to do so in the future.

Virtual open enrollment fairs successfully educate and engage employees, both remote and on-site. Employers can continue to optimize and improve their approach for the upcoming season. This is the year to show up for employees year-round to keep them engaged and supported in the workplace, potentially increasing employee satisfaction and retention.

For employers working in a hybrid workplace model, offering both in-person and virtual open enrollment events may also yield great results. For employers lacking a benefits website, they should consider building an internal digital destination, so employees have a year-round resource.

Although open enrollment proved challenging in 2020, it provided valuable lessons on better engaging and supporting employees. Employers should start now to thoughtfully plan and communicate 2021 open enrollment to increase plan participation and help combat potential turnover on the horizon.

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This blog is intended to be a compilation of information and resources pulled from federal, state, and local agencies. This is not intended to be legal advice. For up to the minute information and guidance on COVID-19, please follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your local health organizations.

National Insurance Services is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the readers’ business activities.

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Haley Llanas

Haley Llanas

Haley Llanas’ philosophy is to work hard but always make time to simply enjoy life. She enjoys interacting with customers and finding solutions to their issues. Haley has a background in mathematics and previously worked in the NIS billing department. As an Account Representative, she specializes in Life and Disability Insurance benefits for public sector organizations in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Florida.