Connecting Benefits Virtually


remote job postings on LinkedIn increased during the pandemic


of people are more likely to attend a virtual event than an in-person event

Employers are now operating in a virtual world.

While the pandemic may have catalyzed the need for more flexible benefits communications strategies, employers must ensure they are set up to engage employees in an increasingly virtual world long-term. Remote work and flexible schedules will undoubtedly continue post-pandemic, given that 55% of employees would prefer to be remote at least three days a week once the pandemic is behind us, according to PwC’s U.S. Remote Work Survey.

Strategic engagement will be critical to ensuring that employees feel supported and satisfied with their benefits – as well as their jobs. One in five employees surveyed voluntarily switched employers in 2020, and one in four employees plan to switch jobs in 2021, according to an IBM Institute for Business Value study. Employees, especially Millennials and Gen Z, expect more than a salary and health benefits from their employers. To retain talent and remain competitive in this new normal, employers must work harder to maintain connection with their workforce in a virtual work environment.

Adapt to a Remote Workforce

With more organizations opting for remote or hybrid work environments post-pandemic, employers must make sure their employees feel supported – particularly when it comes to their benefits. Out of sight does not, and cannot, mean out of mind when it comes to benefits. Employers should prioritize:

    • Expanding virtual and telehealth programs
    • Enhancing mental health support
    • Expanding voluntary benefits
    • Supporting the health and financial wellbeing of employees

Most importantly, make sure employees are equipped with – and understand – the benefits information they need to make smart health care choices for themselves and their families. Employers can’t just offer new benefits; employees need to be aware that they exist and know how to access and use them.

Enable Online Enrollment

Open enrollment presents the first opportunity to communicate and engage with employees virtually. With online enrollment, employees can enjoy a modern, intuitive benefits shopping experience. Each benefit is presented with cost-per-paycheck data, and ideally, employees will have the ability to access informational videos and interact with decision support tools. Given health care literacy is generally low among employees – with only 56% of surveyed consumers saying they understand how coinsurance applies to their coverage – these capabilities are invaluable for employees who have questions or don’t recognize certain terms.

Set Up Supersites

Benefits communications do not end with open enrollment; they must continue throughout the year. However, these days, old standbys like posters, tent cards or group meetings won’t reach employees, with so many working from home. Instead, employers must get creative with ways to engage employees virtually – such as through interactive online benefits guides, virtual benefits fairs, and telehealth services.

An interactive online environment gives employees access to educational materials any time of day, which is especially valuable as employees work more flexible hours. They can also access this information as they experience various personal and professional life events. It’s equally important to get smart on benefits as a new hire and during open enrollment as it is when you get married, have a child, relocate or near retirement. When questions inevitably come up as employees choose and use their care, access to key benefits information will support smart care decisions – anytime, anywhere.

Leverage Advocacy Services

Advocacy services ensure that employees still get personalized care to maneuver the complexities of health benefits year-round. When employees need to research and resolve billing errors, pay their medical bills, determine if a provider is in-network, arrange a second opinion or understand what is covered under their health plan, they can simply pick up the phone and have an advocate advise them. Advocates are trained professionals who educate and support employees to guide them to make the smartest, most cost-effective health care decisions based on their personal situation.

This real-time, year-round access can foster more informed health care decisions and drastically lower out-of-pocket spending for the employee – and reduce costs for the employer. Plus, it helps gradually increase employee health literacy for a lifetime of cost-effective decision-making.

Leverage All Available Channels for Communications Campaigns Year-Round

Employers who maximize new communications capabilities can improve employees’ benefits experiences. The more access employees have to information about their benefits, the more empowered they are to make smart, cost-effective health care choices for themselves and their families. With no office walls, there are no limitations to where and when employees can get smart on benefits.

Employees who have been working – and will continue to work – from home need to feel connected to and appreciated by their employers. In turn, it’s more important than ever for employers to maintain a connection with their workforce. To retain talent, engender loyalty and maintain productivity, employers must show they care for the health and wellbeing of employees and their families – and their wallets!

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