Open enrollment can be challenging at any time, but this year has an additional layer of complexity as many of the open enrollment activities will likely have to be virtual. Between educating staff about benefit options for the new plan year and tracking down paperwork from employees who travel and aren’t in the office much, it’s usually a high-stress time for the HR department. At the same time, many people are more interested than ever in the details about their healthcare coverage with the threat of COVID-19 looming.

Work Through Employee Fears

One of this year’s enrollment challenges, with everyone’s concern about the pandemic, is that most people will be paying very close attention to any changes from the previous year’s plan. With this in mind, it may be beneficial to consider a more interactive method of enrollment. Companies often offset the rising cost of health coverage by increasing deductibles as a way to keep premiums affordable. Rather than allowing employees to elect simply the same benefits as they had the prior year, have them go through the process of making their elections again, even if nothing has changed. It’s an excellent way for them to review what they currently have in place.

The Importance of Communication

Another one of the enrollment challenges each year is communicating the correct information to spouses and domestic partners who often get the information second hand. The good news is that since many of these meetings will be virtual this year, and so many people are working from home, more spouses and partners may have the opportunity to attend and have their questions answered by the experts. In open enrollment meetings, questions from the audience are a terrific learning opportunity for everyone. Presenters will find out which areas they need to explain in more detail next time, and the chances are good that several other people in the room or on the conference call have the same questions.

Be Prepared

Companies will face significantly more logistical problems this year since so many people are working remotely. It won’t be as simple as asking people to take one handout from each stack as they enter the meeting room. Make sure that all documentation is available in digital format and ready to email. However, be open to mailing hard copies to people who prefer to look at them in print.

Open enrollment can be challenging, especially in this challenging time. However, with careful planning and preparation, these challenges can be turned into opportunities for process improvements and employee engagement.