Preparing for Open Enrollment: Updating Your Communication Strategy for COVID-19

updating communication strategy for covid-19


Even if Open Enrollment has shifted to a virtual format for your organization this year, communication remains a critical aspect. If your company is one of the many gearing up for a January 1st enrollment, now’s the time to evaluate and update your communication strategy.

Communication is important during Open Enrollment as employees sometimes don’t realize what benefits are available, how to access them, or how to ask questions -- leading to a decline in both enrollment and employee satisfaction. As a year of more uncertainties than ever unfolds, communication becomes even more important.

Here are tips and best practices for updating your Open Enrollment communication strategy for COVID-19.

Use empathy to guide communication

This year has been stressful and uncertain in countless ways. Even if your industry hasn’t been particularly impacted by the pandemic, employees’ family and home life may have been. All communication should be a touch more personal this year, showing empathy towards the struggles endured.

While Open Enrollment materials still need to accomplish your business goals, they should do so in a way that’s sensitive to everyone’s situations.

Create a new COVID FAQ document

You can expect employees to ask a lot of questions that are either related to or inspired by the COVID-19 situation. Creating a FAQ sheet ahead of time can answer many of these questions and show your employees that their concerns are important to you.

Examples of commonly asked questions currently include:

  • Are health conditions caused by COVID-19 eligible for the new, specific version of FMLA?
  • If an employee is required to quarantine after travel or exposure, are they entitled to paid time off?
  • Does an HSA or FSA cover COVID-19 tests or PPE?
  • Is there assistance or additional
  • When exactly can I utilize the Families First Coronavirus Response Act for paid leave?

Diversify communication channels

If your organization has a distributed workforce, it may be challenging to fix your communication strategy around one single channel. Adapting the same messages for different channels will help you reach people in the way that best resonates with them.

For example, you may choose to host a virtual benefits fair which is a great option -- just be sure to record the session so others can play it on demand and supplement it with written material. Mixing live and on-demand versions of digital content is important for getting information out to a distributed workforce. Just be sure to follow up with individual communication either via phone, push notifications, email, or video chat to make sure the information was received and answer any questions they may have.

Be prepared to explain

This year more than ever, employees will need you to be thorough when explaining benefits and eligibility requirements. The CARES act has added nuances to some benefits like FMLA which can be confusing.

But you’ll need to take it one step further than that. If you’ve had to make changes to benefit offerings this year, be prepared to explain why. Employees will want to understand the purpose behind each benefit and what value it could provide to them. It’s a good idea to prepare real-life examples for each benefit ahead of time to include in your communication strategy.

Think outside the box

A trending topic this year has been keeping people engaged when working remotely, and the same goes for Open Enrollment. If you are doing a virtual benefits fair or information session, try out different ways to keep people engaged throughout the session. You can utilize polls, quizzes, short videos and interactive games that simultaneously educate employees and entertain them.

Listen and engage

While you should be listening for employee concern and feedback always, it’s more important now than ever. Take the time to have personal conversations to gather feedback and engage individuals in their specific situations. Open the door for two-way communication early in the process so employees are aware that the communication strategy goes both ways.

Adjusting your communication strategy for Open Enrollment this year might require a little extra effort, but it will help keep employees engaged even when enrolling virtually. It will also help ease concerns your employees may have going into the next year, which can be substantial during these unprecedented times.