The 2020 Digital Open Enrollment Season

In the last few quarters, the vast majority of the U.S. workforce has transitioned out of traditional workplaces into remote working environments. These shifts were often abrupt, and human resources teams worked hard to accommodate employees and encourage productivity in remote workspaces. The scale of the shift to remote work was massive. But after months of adjusting to the uncertainty and change, businesses and employees are coming to a powerful realization—work is still getting done. 

The shift to at-home work came with a few hiccups, and not all of them are solved yet, but the transition has largely been working for companies. In some industries, remote working has proved to be successful and several organizations have stated plans to sustain the new remote work environments well into the future. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 76% of global office workers want to continue working from home after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now that the race to lay groundwork for remote work is mostly complete, HR teams are making a shift to support employees during open enrollment season. With a majority of employees working remotely for the foreseeable future, it’s imperative to implement smooth digital processes for employees to make benefits adjustments. A seamless start-to-finish experience gives employees the best experience and minimizes the headaches for the HR team.

Traditionally, open enrollment can be cumbersome for everyone. Inefficiencies for employees cause additional work for the HR team. As communications, deadlines, documents and questions stack up, HR professionals are forced to play the role of translator between employees and benefits providers. With a traditional office environment, a lot of the confusion can be managed with in-person information sessions. In an all-remote environment and a digital benefit selection process, HR teams can’t rely on that solution. It’s more important than ever to reimagine the open enrollment process and build a workflow that gives employees the best chance to succeed.

Setting expectations for digital open enrollment

To plan for the upcoming open enrollment season, HR teams need to accurately set expectations. Here’s a short list of key differences that we expect HR professionals to plan for headed into open enrollment this year:

  • More communication between HR and employees—An entirely digital way to select benefits is new territory for employees and HR teams. It’s likely that there will be a surge of questions and uncertainties along the way. This will take more documents from the HR team to allow employees to self-service as well as more availability for real-time assistance. On top of the digital process shift, there are other unique circumstances that require thorough communications plans. For example, due to COVID-19 complications, the IRS is allowing mid-year employee benefit changes that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
  • Employees delaying medical care—Receiving medical care in 2020 comes with a series of unique new complications. People are reducing or delaying visits to medical care facilities for a number of reasons—fears of increased cost, uncertainty about availability, upward trending costs, fear of COVID-19 exposure, etc. For any of these reasons, employees might respond by altering their standard care habits.
  • Changing geography of the workforce—Location is an important part of employee health management. As organizations adapt to a higher percentage of remote workforce, there needs to be a corresponding increase in remote health resources. Health policies may differ across geographies and HR teams need to be able to adapt to keep employees informed.
  • Mental health coverage needs to be standard—There’s a lot of new things happening in the world and they all impact employees differently. Some might be parents who are working from home while attending to their children. Others might be impacted by friends or family who are now unemployed. The social benefits of a physical office are tough to replace. An abrupt move to prolonged homebound work can be trying for employees, compounded by other factors to increase the likelihood of anxiety, stress, isolation and other mental health problems. Employers need to rise to the challenge and support employees to address those needs.
  • Employees will scrutinize benefits more deeply—A lot of employees have recent experiences that change what they need from a benefits package. They may be dealing with short-term disabilities, changes in ability to handle out-of-pocket costs, alternative care for outpatient treatment, etc. Any number of new needs might change how employees look at an overall benefits package and what they require from an employer.

Preparing for remote enrollment with a well-connected HR system

To lay the groundwork for successful open enrollment periods this year, HR teams need systems that are simple, fast and highly customizable. They also need to find ways to connect all of the systems in the employee lifecycle into a single technology stack and automate as much as possible. 

Ultimately, the HR team is responsible for keeping employees informed about how to enroll, which options they’ve selected and how to take advantage of those benefits. If technology can shoulder any part of that burden, HR professionals will be able to dedicate more time and energy to assisting employees who have unique questions or needs. 

The most technologically savvy teams are connecting their HR systems to employee agreements to create a streamlined benefits system. Digital documents can be sent to employees directly from that system’s backend, giving employees a simple way to review and sign agreements and opening the door for easy findability should they need to access that document later. With an interconnected HR system like that, there’s increased visibility into document status, making it easier than ever for HR professionals to track employee document progress. It’s also much easier to send out one-to-many communications (bulk send) about companywide policies to keep employees informed of important benefits information.

The Docusign Agreement Cloud for HR connects and automates the entire employee experience, from offer letters to onboarding to open enrollment season. Docusign’s solutions enable applicants to fill out and sign all necessary forms online, on any device—reducing the time to complete these forms from days to minutes. Prebuilt templates allow your staff to easily select the appropriate forms and robust workflow capabilities let you specify the number of signers and the signer order. Automated reminders help speed up the process. Docusign also provides complete reporting, audit trail and document retention capabilities. With hundreds of integration partners, Docusign allows you to connect to existing HR systems for a fully digital experience.

To learn more about how to use modern agreement technology to streamline employee benefits, read Managing Documents During Open Enrollment.


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