The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in multiple ways — from constant fears about health and finances to most employees still working from home. The lines between work and life are blurred. Work from home trend is likely to continue in the future. A recent report from CISCO suggests that more than 75% of large organizations (typically self-funded) will increase flexibility to work from home.
Benefit leaders know that health of their people is the first priority. If employees are in pain or are sick, they are not productive. To perform well during this pandemic, employees need to know they can get quality care from their safety of their home, when they and their family members need it.
By offering digital health, benefit leaders are helping their team members get access to primary and urgent care via phone, message or a video call. This keeps them away from high-risk health clinics and hospitals. While telehealth for primary care can address minor urgent care issues such as cold and flu, allergies, sore throat, UTIs etc., the transactional model of telehealth is not effective for chronic condition management and musculoskeletal care.
People with chronic conditions such as chronic back and joint pain often require multiple visits with their providers and need close monitoring on a regular basis. They also need an ability to have asynchronous model of communication with their provider between visits. Understanding this need, progressive benefit departments are taking the next step and offering digital therapeutics for conditions such as digital care for people with musculoskeletal pain. Some companies have committed to providing such programs at low or no cost to their people. Such a move will be a significant factor in maintaining a culture in which team members feel supported and safe.
Having digital health in your benefits portfolio is not enough. It is also equally important that people know about it when they need it. Scheduling health fairs, in-person meetings, and accessing cafeterias or break rooms to promote health benefits programs is no longer realistic. In this new ‘reality’ benefit leaders will no longer be able to rely on place or time based (for example during open enrollment only) approaches to get employees’ attention to their benefits. It is no surprise that during this open enrollment benefit leaders are feeling more pressurized to provide strong communication, education and support of the health benefit programs, while relying on new forms of communication.
Here are 5 tips to up your game to find new, engaging options that work in an at-home, virtual environment.
Create personalized, targeted communication
With employee stuck at home, most of them are experiencing information overload and spending on average over 50 -60 hours per week consuming social media content. The way your people are consuming information has changed. They are now expecting the information they are interested in to find them rather than having to look for it.
Most traditional benefit communication followed the broadcasting model: One-size-fit-all and send the same content to everyone. Gone are the days of sending a boring and generic ten-page email. With people distracted at home, it is more important than ever to make benefit communication employee-centric and tailored to meet their individual needs. Benefit leaders should expect that at this time, anything which is irrelevant to recipients will be ignored.
We can’t ignore the differences in impact that Covid-19 has had along the lines of basic variables between employees – e.g., essential vs non-essential, remote vs. non-remote workers, the presence of dependents at home, gender, socioeconomic level, and ethnicity. Even with widespread popularity of digital health in a short period of time, the access remains very uneven, in terms of addressing all populations.
The new of the hour is to tailor communication to smaller, more selective audiences (even individuals). Seek opportunities to segment messages, even to significant groups.
Make it relevant, simple, straightforward, and interesting.
Round the year messaging
It is also important to continue benefits communications beyond the annual open enrollment period. The importance of employee engagement round the year cannot be understated, amidst a shift to virtual and remote work, which will continue to be more commonly practiced. The needs of employees change throughout the year. The communications strategy should accommodate all life changes and allow employees to make benefits changes as needed during the year.
When you’re looking into how to engage remote employees and keeping remote employees engaged, remember that it’s a constant task to nurture and develop. Engagement is never a one size fits all approach or something you do once in a blue moon. Keeping remote employees engaged turns them into your best and biggest asset.
Use the right tools, first and foremost
If your team isn’t using the right tools to communicate and collaborate effectively then you’re already starting off on the wrong foot. The market has a ton of chat and collaboration tools to choose from so managing a robust, productive remote team is a much easier task to take on.
If your workplace is not digital yet (your Intranet is outdated, you’re still sending out standardized email newsletters to your entire workforce, or you don’t use any employee communications app that allows your employees to personalize their newsfeed), you’re going to have a tough time engaging with your remote employees. You need to build a robust internal communications strategy that helps you connect and engage with the remote workforce. Put differently, you need to shift your internals communications toward a digital communications ecosystem.
Also video is preferred over text. Much of our language is nonverbal. When managers are forced to limit the nonverbal cues available to their direct reports, they increase the chance for miscommunication, defensiveness, and conflict. Managers need to communicate with their teams in multiple ways and through multiple mediums to keep expectations clear, to reinforce priorities, and to help understand and address barriers to maximizing their team’s work while they are away from the office.
Whether it’s through their phones, a news feed similar to their social feeds, or a content booster they can use to suggest and share content, you’ll need to find the right channels to communicate with them.
Make sure employees feel heard and valued.
However, in most organizations, top-down communication translates into standardized and noisy communication. Most experts agree that top-down communication alone is not the best approach to drive engagement in the workplace
Frequent group updates and anonymous feedback surveys can also help a remote workforce feel included and give them the opportunity to voice their needs without the added concern of reaching out at an inopportune moment.
Create an effective communication strategy so you can reach every employee. For example:
- Hold weekly formal “check-ins”
- Establish performance goals for the month, quarter, and year
- Set clear expectations and requirements for tasks
- Channels should be created for each situation such as one-to-one chats, team meetings, video calls, or open forums for sharing of feedback and ideas
- Encourage two-way communication – get feedback on projects, marketing strategy, customer satisfaction, and more.
Your employees deserve to feel appreciated – even from a distance. Since you’re not in the office with them each day to extend a quick thank-you or take them out to lunch for their work anniversary, you should find small ways to celebrate your employees as often as possible.
Sprite Health’s digital musculoskeletal program provides a single point of access for all MSK conditions, across the entire MSK continuum. Our virtual physical therapy services provide a more affordable and convenient way to prevent and treat pain. Chronic pain management provides an evidence-based, PT-led digital program for chronic joint and back pain that includes personalized exercise therapy, behavioral health support, education & guidance. Bundled surgery provides access to high-quality musculoskeletal surgical care at a pre-negotiated bundled rate. MSK financial management leverages predictive analytics, clinical expertise and plan administration capabilities to eliminate waste – resulting in over 30% net savings in your MSK spend.