Managing Open Enrollment with a Hybrid Workforce

An uptick in Covid-19, fueled in part by an outbreak of the Delta variant, has caused many companies to hit pause on their plans to bring employees back into the office. Others, meanwhile, have settled into a world where workers are in the office a few days a week, for a few meetings at a time, or only on an as-needed basis. With all these differing schedules, HR folks may be scratching their heads and wondering how they’ll roll out an open enrollment that meets the needs of their hybrid workforce.

Luckily, the past year in quarantine has taught us so much about how to adapt to meet the needs of a majority-remote workforce, so ramping up for the open enrollment season doesn’t need to be a huge undertaking, especially if you follow these five steps:

Relax your time limits

When information isn’t delivered in the way in which people are accustomed, they often need more time to review their options and render a decision. If in the past you’ve operated with a 60-day window, consider bumping it up to a 90-day deadline, time permitting. This will allow folks to receive the program overview (especially if you’re sending via snail mail!), join Zoom meetings or other sessions to discuss the options, and even book a face-to-face with HR to ask more specific questions.

Expand on what you know

While you may have swept it under the rug, you actually did do a ton of the legwork to prepare for a hybrid or remote HR benefits rollout last year. Some companies, for example, experimented with virtual benefits fairs, which provides a centralized spot to keep enrollment tools and forms, links to additional resources, and other tools that can help support beneficiaries as they navigate their options. Others, meanwhile, have taken their plans digital, offering employees access to mobile apps that allow users to access information and provides prompts to encourage workers to meet deadlines (which is crucial in the remote environment — more on that below!).

Monitor your engagement

One of the best parts about being in person with your colleagues is that you can monitor their interest in the enrollment process via their attendance at meetings, their understanding of the plans when they ask targeted questions, and other metrics. Luckily, putting things online can make it easier to gauge engagement! You can determine how much time your workers spend on the applications and what perks they are most frequently exploring. Not feeling like you’re getting much traction? Consider hosting a webinar or podcast that can count attendance or record the number of downloads.

Share the wealth

They always say that there’s no such thing as a silly question, but when it comes to employees, workers will always think that their question falls squarely in that category (or is just too specific to warrant an answer!) Knowing that folks may not be willing to speak up, consider posting a monthly Q and A blog or issuing a company-wide email that shares information gleaned from the questions that have come across your desk. You can also use this bulletin as a means to provide reminders for upcoming enrollment deadlines or to-do’s to keep your employees on track.

Double down where you need it most

If you’re introducing a new benefit or have made a significant change over the past year’s offerings, be sure to highlight these alterations. In some cases, it may be interesting to provide the rationale for the decision or illustrate how this new perk is going to improve the life of your workers to both draw attention to the change and spur workers to think about adding it to their portfolio. Similarly, you may want to proactively state why a certain benefit or perk was traded out and gauge reaction to that decision, in part to inform your benefits selection process in the next calendar year.