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We hear from benefits leaders all throughout the year to help them solve puzzles in their data, but there is one season when they are suspiciously quiet: Open Enrollment Season. It’s the busiest time of year for benefits professionals. They’re dealing with literally thousands of phone calls, emails, sticky notes, and in-person questions about employee benefits.
When they’re not answering a question about the open enrollment deadline for the 50th time, they share their struggles, challenges and headaches this time of year. Let’s take a journey through their biggest headaches and find a “treatment” for each one.
We hear this one a lot. You’re answering the same questions over and over again, and the volume seems to go up each year. One benefit manager for an airline told us, “My team answered over 5,000 phone calls during open enrollment last year!”
You’ll never fully stem the rising tide of questions, but proactive communication can help. Some innovative employers send out a weekly FAQ email during open enrollment to all employees to help answer questions before they roll in. Others have set up FAQ pages on their company wikis. One customer told us, “We anticipated a lot of questions by restructuring our benefits booklet to show side-by-side comparisons of each available health plan plus out of pocket costs—it was amazing how much that helped.”
In our recently mailed Open Enrollment Survival Kits, Artemis Health included some “Standard Response Cards” to help answer those constant questions.
Benefits professionals feel like they have two full-time jobs during this time of year: open enrollment, plus their everyday duties. This leads to long days in the office juggling their regular workload side by side with the demands of open enrollment.
The only prescription for being overworked is taking a break from work. Multiple studies have shown that taking breaks, whether it’s a walk around the block, a lunch away from your desk, or a chat with a colleague in the breakroom, helps boost your productivity and creativity. Elizabeth Holmstrom, a former benefits professional and the founder of BreakTogether, believes in the power of breaks so much that she’s made it her current career.
“With Open Enrollment, we have so much work jammed into a tight timeframe most of us feel like we don’t have a single minute to be responsive, let alone take a break for ourselves. When we are stressed it is actually the most important time to pause. Our brains are not designed to run from task to task or to be connected 24/7. Without breaks our brains are constantly in fight or flight mode and it’s impossible to connect with our best thinking. The pause is a surprisingly simple solution and it only takes 1 to 2 minutes. You’ve probably experienced an aha moment in the shower? That’s because your brain finally has a chance to unplug. Try this: before you hit send on your next email or project, take a pause for 5 deep breaths or a two minute stretch. When you review once more before sending, I guarantee you will be more relaxed and find something to improve. Breaks are great for stress reduction and better work."
Artemis socks are the perfect way to take a physical break from your dress shoes. Slip them on discreetly under your desk and no one has to know that you’re chilling.
When we surveyed benefit leaders about what gives them nightmares during open enrollment season, the overwhelming response was just two words: “System Crash.”
Many of you have devoted time, energy, and budget to taking open enrollment online in the past few years. You have undoubtedly saved your team literal mountains of paperwork, but there’s still that lingering possibility of a system outage during this crucial time of year. While you might not be able to prevent it, you might be able to control the damage.
Allow plenty of time for open enrollment, and give employees notice that it’s coming. Remind them early and often of the deadlines, key info, and how to log into your enrollment system. This way, if there is a system outage, your employees will either have finished enrollment or will still have time to do it once the issue is fixed.
The Artemis Open Enrollment Survival Kit includes a generous package of Belgian truffles for “stress eating” if an outage occurs.
Once the dust settles and enrollment is closed, the real work begins. Benefits teams work closely with brokers to make sure all the enrollment materials are correct, complete and submitted to the carrier. This means hours of detailed, careful work combing through enrollment materials and fixing mistakes. Some employers commandeer resources from other teams to help, while others might hire in temporary help or rely on brokerage staff to make this process go smoothly.
No matter the size of your team, this is a common open enrollment headache. Detailed work calls for focus, and focus means great coffee. The Artemis Open Enrollment Kit featured a local roaster, Sumato, which ships fresh for the perfect cup of coffee. We also include a cheery Artemis mug that will be the envy of the breakroom.