Benefits news you may have missed: Oct. 5-9

From open enrollment during a pandemic to Starbucks’ new election perk for employees, here are some of the week’s top stories.
By: | October 9, 2020 • 3 min read

Open enrollment: How can HR succeed in a pandemic? Open enrollment is already a complicated, high-stress time for HR and benefits leaders. Employees, confused and frustrated by their choices, historically spend little time choosing benefits. Most don’t research their options even though they aren’t literate on benefits, leaving employers struggling to make a significant impact. But add to that a largely remote workforce and a global pandemic that’s making not just health offerings, but an array of benefits, critical, and those challenges are even greater—making this year’s open enrollment more high-stakes than ever. Read more here.

This compassionate leader is HRE’s HR Executive of the Year: In a crisis that’s testing organizations—as well as CEOs and HR leaders—priorities are plenty: the safety and health of workers; driving employee engagement; the ever-changing technology required for the country’s largest-ever, and unplanned, experiment in remote work. But perhaps most important, the pandemic has reiterated the importance of mental wellness, of work/life balance, of self-care. It’s a lesson that drives Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer of professional services giant Accenture—not only for herself but for all of Accenture’s 513,000 employees. Read more here.

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The employees are not all right: It’s a massive understatement to say our collective mental state isn’t good. I’ve reported countless distressing statistics over the past several weeks: 75% of employees are currently experiencing burnout at work. The risk for depression among U.S. workers has risen a whopping 102% as a result of the coronavirus pandemic—305% for workers aged 20-39. Financial stressors are sky-high, with employees worried about losing their jobs (or their spouses losing their jobs), having less money or seeing their 401(k) balances drop. And seven months into the pandemic, things aren’t getting any easier. Read more here.

Starbucks unveils election perk for employees: As employers increasingly look at ways to get their employees involved on Election Day, Starbucks has unveiled a unique perk for all of its employees: free transportation to the polls. The coffee giant says it will provide all U.S. employees with a free one-way Lyft ride (up to $75) to the polls to vote, volunteer as a poll worker, or drop off a ballot at a post office, ballot box or other official ballot drop location. The perk is available until Nov. 3. Read more here.

15 must-read stories about mental health: In recognition of World Mental Health Day, a look at how and why smart employers are stepping up to help employees as rates of depression and burnout soar. Read more here.

Could AI improve mental health? Employees are overwhelmingly experiencing the most stressful year of their lives. Rates of depression, anxiety, burnout and stress are soaring as the pandemic and its associated uncertainties are wreaking havoc on employees’ work and personal lives. But can technology help improve workers’ mental health? New research indicates it may, pointing to big potential for employers as they look for ways to help. Read more here.

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Employees aren’t getting their flu vaccine. What should HR do? Only about six in 10 people say they plan to get vaccinated against the flu during the 2020-2021 flu season, and 15% said they are not sure, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Employers and HR managers often encourage flu vaccines for employees, but this year it is vital for them to do so, experts say. Read more here.

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.