Stressful Open Enrollment: What To Do? | Netchex HCM Software

December 17, 2015

As a Human Resources professional, you are extremely familiar with the term “open enrollment,” which is the period of time each year when your organization’s employees can sign up for health benefits, as well as other benefits your company may offer. This endeavor has a major impact on people’s lives and therefore requires a high level of attention to detail. It also tends to take place around the holiday season, when your stress level outside of work may already be high.

Decrease open enrollment stress

However, with some careful planning, there are ways in which you can keep your stress low during open enrollment season. The Employee Benefit Adviser website offers the following tips:

  • Resist the urge to do everything yourself. When crafting your communications for the year, ask your fellow Human Resources colleagues for ideas. When spreading the word about the open enrollment period, recruit senior leadership to help get the message out. Instead of conducting all of the open enrollment training yourself, invite some of your benefit vendors to visit your office and make presentations.
  • Work with the information technology staff in your company to test any software or online portals that will be used during open enrollment to make sure they are working. Develop a contingency plan in the event that you have a technology failure during the open enrollment period.
  • Make sure that if any significant changes are occurring with the employee benefits that as much information is distributed in as many different ways as possible. Use plain language and make sure each employee is fully educated so they can make informed decisions for themselves.
  • Once you have distributed all of the necessary information, ask for employee feedback. How do they feel about any changes or about the benefits package overall? Is there anything they do not understand or wish could be done differently? Consider asking for honest responses via an anonymous survey, and then addressing the needs which arise in that survey as soon as possible.
  • Believe it or not, with the information you have gathered, you can now start planning for next year. Start a folder where you place any emails, flyers, brochures, etc. which can be reused the following year. As the year continues and new benefits information emerges, add it to that folder for your future reference.
  • Think of ways in which you can make open enrollment more fun for both the Human Resources team and company employees. One idea is to give employees an entry raffle ticket each time they complete something related to open enrollment, such as attending an information session. At the end of open enrollment, pull some of the raffle tickets from a hat and award prizes. Gift cards are a great idea, but if you don’t have a budget to work with, you could offer things such as casual dress days or a reserved parking space for a month.
  • Don’t forget to take care of yourself during this time. You may be working long hours, but that doesn’t mean you should be skipping lunch, exercise, or other things that keep you healthy and strong.

More tips to decrease office stress during annual open enrollment

Inc. magazine offers some additional thoughts on how to minimize your stress as a Human Resources Employee during open enrollment.

  • Inc. agrees with the Employee Benefit Adviser in that you can ease your stress by planning ahead. They recommend you start executing a plan for open enrollment for the year approximately 12 weeks prior to the start date.
  • Think about the process of educating your company’s employees about this year’s benefits as being akin to a giant marketing campaign. Just like you can’t enter a grocery store or pharmacy this time of year without seeing advertisements for flu vaccinations, your employees should not be able to go anywhere in the company without seeing or hearing something that reminds them of the open enrollment period. Your advertising should be a multi-pronged attack which includes seminars, emails, posters, flyers, handouts, and postal mail. If your company has a messaging system, intranet, or closed circuit televisions, you can advertise in all of those places as well.
  • To increase employee understanding of the benefits available and any changes, break the information down into short, easily understood bites. Consider creating videos of 3 minutes or less that explain individual aspects of the benefit package, and obtain support from upper management to allow employees time at work to view these videos.
  • Create advertising that will appeal to the emotions of the employees. Will a certain benefit improve their quality of life? Will one save them money? Will one make things better or easier for their parents, family, or pets? Will one make it possible for them to enjoy a longer and/or better retirement? Let people know!

Get employees to engage during the process has further thoughts about improving employee engagement during the open enrollment period in order to make your job a little less stressful.

  • At the end of each open enrollment season, organize focus groups to help you inform how you will approach open enrollment the following year. Make sure you have a full understanding of the types of benefits your company’s employees want and how the benefits your company is currently offering are meeting their needs. These focus groups are a sign to your company’s employees that their opinions are valued. They will feel more involved in the benefits process and therefore will be more engaged in the coming year as a result.
  • Talk to your upper management about funding to host “lunch and learn” sessions regarding your company’s benefits. Free food is a powerful motivator when you are trying to convince employees to attend an information session. As mentioned earlier in the article, these sessions can be run by either you or a representative of one your company’s benefit plans. The idea is to give a basic overview of a benefit and answer any questions the employees may have about it.
  • Consider holding a benefits fair. This is a great way to introduce the entire portfolio of the benefits your company offers to employees all at once. Speak to your upper management about granting employees work release time to attend the benefits fair and educate themselves on their options. Ask your vendors if they can bring fun giveaways for the event, as that will help motivate employees to attend. Another idea is to invite area doctors and nurses. For example, you could have a local chiropractor there to provide free basic assessments on back health, or a medical assistant taking people’s blood pressure and explaining what it means to them. If you do not have the space for an on-site benefits fair and you have a capable information technology staff, you can work with them to create a website which serves as an online benefits fair that employees can access at their convenience.
  • Speaking of online tools, you can speak to your upper management about moving your open enrollment sign-up to a fully online system. This is not only easier and more convenient for the company’s employees, but leaves you with a lot less paperwork to process overall.

All of us here at Netchex wish you a happy and stress-free open enrollment season. If you would like to see how Netchex can help your company with benefits management, visit us online at

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