Not only are we officially in Open Enrollment season, but also we’re in it during a global pandemic.

Now more than ever, senior leadership owes it to employees to ensure that they have all of the tools they need to make the best decisions on health, dental, vision, and life insurance for the sake of their physical and mental well-being.

Consider how much time, effort, and research typically goes into making a large purchase like a new car. How does that compare with the amount of time people usually take to choose their healthcare plan? For a lot of reasons, people don’t give purchasing insurance the attention it deserves. Here’s how we can change that.

Break it down simply and clearly.

Open Enrollment is alphabet soup. Don’t assume your people know what they’re looking at, and make sure you do everything you can to answer their questions before they ask them. Spell out every acronym, give them every number, and break down the differences in each plan so that they know what they’re about to spend a lot of money on. And be sure to stress the importance of this decision; it’s worth the time and effort. This guide can help detail everything your employees need to know — and this one can clarify some of the most common health insurance terms.

Be transparent.

Open Enrollment is way more confusing than it needs to be. Employers should be transparent about costs, alternatives, and things that might be changing for the first time. Let your employees know what those changes mean and how they will likely affect them negatively or positively. If you offer rewards — such as a cash payment in an employee’s HSA for getting a physical — explain how the system works upfront. This health insurance calculator is a handy tool your employees can use to determine what makes the most sense for them.

Pro-tip: Highlight things like HSA and FSA contribution changes.
For 2021, HSA contribution limits went up and FSA limits stayed the same. This is important info for your people. HSA limits for 2021 are now $3,600 for individuals and $7,200 for families. The FSA limit is still $2,750 for employees. Go the extra mile and make sure your employees know that FSA funds are use-it-or-lose-it by the end of the year and HSAs are triple-tax advantaged savings vehicles that are theirs forever.

Empower your people to ask questions.

Many people participate in Open Enrollment to simply check a box. This can lead to decisions that may not be best for your employees or their families. Providing multiple outlets (such as email, surveys, office hours, or all-hands meetings) to ask questions can help encourage your people to advocate for themselves.

Foster engagement and over-communicate.

While Open Enrollment is stressful for employers as well as employees (especially if your business doesn’t have an official HR manager), it’s important to stay focused on pushing for active engagement from your people. Explaining their options doesn’t have to be boring or daunting; you can make the process exciting, easy, and empowering through clear, direct, and thorough communication. No detail is too small when it comes to choosing benefits.

Times are a-changin’ — so act like it.

COVID-19 has upended our lives and taught us new ways of working with distributed teams. Take this into account when planning your interactions and presentations on Open Enrollment. Whether you’re in-person or remote, make sure everyone involved has all of the materials and information they need for success. Anything that would’ve been printed before should be sent digitally. You might consider having video-only office hours to answer questions for those who do not feel safe in the office just yet. Above all, lead with compassion and understanding!

You got this!

Your employees deserve patience, guidance, and all the information possible for a successful Open Enrollment. Make it fun, not dreadful. And in turn, you’ll probably have fun, too. Especially this year, we all need it!