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Amp Up Benefit Communications for COVID-19 Open Enrollment Season

Benefit communications are vitally important in the COVID-19 world. Employees will likely pay more attention to open enrollment this year and spend more time reviewing their benefit choices. 

Due to the effects of the pandemic and the resulting economic fallout, employees report a significant increase from a year ago in the value they place on benefits offered by their employers, and 73% say they are likely to stay at a job based on non-health benefits and benefits that help reduce stress from unexpected expenses, according to a recent Prudential Financial survey. 

Over half of employers believe more employees will enroll in voluntary products this open enrollment season due to the effects of COVID-19, according to an Eastbridge survey. Among voluntary benefits that assist employees with unexpected expenses are employee purchase programs, low interest installment loans and credit, and bill payment programs.

Given the added interest in benefits for this open enrollment season, employers will need to enhance benefit communications. Although in previous years employees may not have paid much attention to benefit communications, employees will be paying more attention this year not only to understanding their current selections but to take advantage of offered benefit programs they might not have considered previously. Benefit communications should emphasize voluntary benefits that are offered, especially ones that can help support employees’ financial well-being. 

With many employees working remotely now, much of the communication about open enrollment will be achieved solely through technology rather than by in-person meetings. A joint study by Eastbridge Consulting Group and The Enroller Resource Center found that enrollers anticipate a movement to call center or telephonic enrollments; to virtual meetings (group and/or individual) using “Zoom” or other video-based enrollment technology; and to online self-service enrollments.

To accommodate working remotely or social distancing requirements, benefit communications will likely take on more digital communicating this year, including:
•    Video (75% are more likely to watch a video than read documents, email or web articles, according to Forrester Research)
•    A structured on-demand webinar
•    A guided tutorial on voluntary benefits
•    Podcasts
•    Mobile apps
•    Texts (text open rates average 98% vs. 20% for email, according to Gartner)

Benefit communications for this year’s open enrollment season will certainly adopt not only a new look but a new purpose as well.