The Key to Making Benefits Work for Dispersed Employees

by | Feb 12, 2020 | HR and Culture

Chances are your office looks nothing like your parents’. Today’s dispersed employees are often spread across hundreds of offices, working entirely remotely, or continuously on the road. They’re just as likely spending half the year abroad as a “digital nomad” as they are installing home security systems or standing on the manufacturing floor.

The benefits challenges facing companies continue to evolve as new work styles, job titles, and even industries gain momentum. Yet with benefits awareness at an all-time low and the cost of healthcare steadily climbing, it’s never been more important that employees use and love your benefits. Making benefits truly work for your employees—with high utilization, employee satisfaction, and excellent outcomes—requires a strategy outside of the traditional HR playbook.

In this post, we’ll look at how you can make benefits work better for your company’s dispersed workforce.

The challenge of dispersed employees

The problems of tricky benefits communication, declining awareness, and low utilization are complicated enough in traditional office settings. They get even more involved with a dispersed workforce.

Employees who work remotely can’t attend a benefits meeting. Emergency services personnel might miss an important email while they’re saving lives. A sales team that spends 300 days on the road each year won’t see your printed benefits booklet.

To compound matters, we know that introducing a benefit and getting employees to use it are two different things. When all the traditional delivery methods tossed out the window, the chances of that happening are low. As the nature of work changes, the key to making benefits work lies in building communication strategies tailored to your employees’ and your workplace’s unique challenges.

Shift your culture

Making benefits work across dispersed offices is a matter of improving employee awareness, education, and communication. But it can start with cultural shifts, especially if you’re growing fast, testing a remote work policy, or pivoting to a new marketplace. A strong and supportive culture among dispersed employees will make your efforts that much easier.

It’s worth understanding the unique challenges faced by dispersed employees. In Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work Survey, nearly a fifth of respondents listed loneliness as the biggest struggle with working remotely—though, almost all respondents also said they planned to work remotely, at least part of the time, for the rest of their career.

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Survey your employees to find out if your culture does enough to help them feel connected. In terms of benefits, maybe remote workers are frustrated because they can’t walk to an HR office with questions. According to Reuters, though remote work is up 115% in the US, remote workers are more likely to quit a job because they feel lonely or disconnected. It’s easy to imagine how employees in a satellite office or on a sales team could feel equally isolated.

Cultural shifts that improve communication can lay the groundwork for better benefits awareness. To start building a strategy to drive benefits engagement, consider your workplace’s unique communication challenges. Are they geographical, social, or related to your office’s physical space?

Don’t just rely on the open enrollment meetings, benefits booklets, and mailers that worked in the past. While there are no easy answers, HR can make some simple shifts. Encouraging a digital meetup, checking in regularly with remote employees, and hosting company benefits information on an always-accessible digital platform are all positive moves for companies with dispersed workforces

Shift your benefits communication

Ultimately, the key to making benefits work for dispersed employees across offices lies in deeply understanding the challenges employees face and telling them how benefits can solve them.

During open enrollment, consider ways to reach employees that might be unique to your workplace.

  • If you know that employees rarely check emails because they’re on the factory floor, skip them altogether in favor of SMS or push notifications to their cell phones announcing your new benefit.
  • If a majority of employees are married but most are on the road, put extra effort into your home mailers and family-focused communications
    If your dispersed employees are spread across hundreds of offices, make sure company-wide Q&A sessions are accessible via online video meetings.
  • If dispersed employees are fully remote, give them access to special benefits-focused “office hours.” Hosting in Zoom or GoToMeeting for a face-to-face meeting can increase their sense of connection.

After open enrollment, keep the support going to drive utilization year-round.

  • Ask your vendors to send marketing materials to each of your satellite offices, not just your central location.
  • If you work with an equipped benefits experience platform, use push notifications to drive benefits education while employees are on-the-go (see our post The Best Benefits Education Tool You Haven’t Used Yet to learn more).
  • Get employee feedback with anonymous surveys, and focus primarily on any remote, traveling, or potentially disconnected dispersed employees. We’re fans of OfficeVibe at our office.

The basics of employee benefits communication remain the same no matter your office makeup. But making employee benefits work across industries, dispersed offices, and evolving workforces and is a matter of small, impactful changes. Think adjusting the flow of your employee benefits presentation, sending a different type of home mailer, or centralizing all your benefits in a digital benefits wallet.

As the nature of work changes and unemployment remains low, it’s more important than ever that you give employees a reason to love their benefits. With a supportive culture and a tailored communication strategy, benefits can actively drive employee satisfaction, no matter where, or how, workers do their work.

Employee Benefits Communication Guide

Find more great benefits communications in our Employee Benefits Communication Guide!

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