Open enrollment is an opportunity for brokers and employers to come together and offer a meaningful benefits package. The most effective way to do so is by taking the time to know what employees will be looking for during their open enrollment period.
With the COVID-19 pandemic changing immediate priorities and transforming the way we work, it’s especially important for organizations to pay attention to employee needs during their open enrollment period for 2021.
What employees are looking for in their benefits packages
Before we get into the specific benefits you should be offering, let’s talk about the qualities of meaningful benefits. There are a few questions employees will be asking themselves as they sift through open enrollment offerings:
Is there enough flexibility within these benefits? Flexibility is more important than ever. Your employees will be looking for benefits that can adapt to their needs as we continue to navigate uncharted and unpredictable territories. They need to be certain that no matter what life throws at them, their benefits will have them covered.
Can my benefits be personalized? Just like flexibility, it’s important that benefits can be customized for specific situations and needs. With each family and personal situation looking a little different, it’s important that benefits can be twisted to fit the mold of people’s lives, not the other way around.
Are there benefits to reduce stress and address mental health? According to a study by MetLife, 2 out of 3 employees are more stressed now than before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. That, coupled with the rising instances of mental health issues across the nation, creates a need for employee benefits to address mental health and overall wellbeing with the same level of thoroughness as physical health.
Do these benefits break the status quo? While including basic benefits like health insurance and retirement savings are important, employees are looking for options that go above and beyond that to address other needs (think: pet insurance, student loan repayment programs, etc.). In today’s competitive workforce, outside-the-box benefits are key for attracting and retaining employees.
The five critical benefits employees will look for during open enrollment
When crafting a benefits plan that is flexible, customizable, unique, and addresses key needs, there are a few benefits that employers should be considering.
Here are five critical benefits employees will be looking for during open enrollment:
- Student loan repayment
According to a study by The Society for Human Resource Management, only 8% of respondents worked for a company that offered tuition-repayment benefits in 2019. Currently, 43 million Americans hold student loan debt and face increased financial stress.
Employers can offer a number of benefits to assist; matching 401(k) contributions to loan payments, making loan payments in exchange for unused PTO, and setting up payroll deferral to student loans are popular options.
- Flexible schedules and telework
Given today’s uncertain landscape, employees want the peace of mind that comes with flexible schedules and the ability to work remotely. Many will be faced with new challenges like providing remote learning for their children or taking care of elderly parents all while juggling work responsibilities as well. Flexible schedules, even when working remotely, will be key for many employees.
- Caregiver assistance
More than a sixth of working adults in the US are also caregivers for either children or dependent adults. They face an additional financial and emotional burden of having to arrange care during work hours.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and care facilities were closed, leaving working parents to juggle two full time jobs -- their day jobs and a caregiving role. While the emotional stress of that time period can’t be erased, employers can help their employees ease the financial burden of being a caregiver by providing reimbursement for daycare, before/after school programs, adult care, Eligible Dependent Care FSA (DCFSA), and more.
- Continuation of coverage during furloughs and leaves of absence.
A feeling of security is a top priority for employees in the wake of a pandemic that left millions of Americans unemployed. If there ever is a similar event in the future, employees will need to know they will have basic coverages for themselves and their families if they are not able to work for an extended period of time. COBRA can give workers and their families who would lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue coverage for limited time periods such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in hours worked, transition between jobs, and other life events.
- Assistance with life’s unexpected costs
If the previous year has taught us anything, it’s that we have to expect the unexpected. For a lot of people, especially those with a High-Deductible Health Plan, paying for unexpected healthcare costs can be difficult and stressful. An offering like the Clarity HSA allows employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for unexpected illness, injury, surgery, or other healthcare costs. You can learn more about the Clarity HSA here. This also features an HSA Ready for Life funding acceleration which can help fill an employee’s financial gap with an instant, interest-free payroll advance. Additionally, with a Clarity Care Account you can gain the ability to offer your employees additional funds to use for their basic needs even outside of medical expenses.
It’s important to keep the lines of communication with your employees open for the months leading up to your open enrollment period. That way, employees feel educated and confident going into their selections, and can make the most out of your offerings while making informed decisions.