Business Health Insurance

3 Steps to Stress-free Open Enrollment

It’s never too early to start planning for open enrollment — putting in place the processes that can help guide your company to a better benefits season, reduce stress and free up time to concentrate on strategic initiatives.

With the changes related to federal Health Care Reform moving forward, the open enrollment process may be more complex than ever. Here are three tips that may help this year’s benefits season run smoothly.

1. Take the pulse of your team.

With the move toward consumer-driven health plans, employees are becoming more informed about benefits costs. Involve your staff from the start by asking what they value most: preventive care, maternity care, low co-payments, vision or dental coverage, a wide provider network? Working together, you may be able to save money and develop a more engaged, loyal workforce.

2. Explore existing options.

Your benefits package may already include high-quality benefits that are being under-utilized — such as health savings accounts, preventive care or commuter benefits — simply because employees aren’t aware of them. Consider distributing an email or flyer with details on “Employee Benefits You May be Missing.” Explain each benefit, how it works and why it’s valuable to your personnel.

3. Communicate early and often.

The most effective enrollment process includes the distribution of clear information at every stage. Consider the issues that may be on employees’ minds: What’s changed this year? What choices work best for me and my family? What do I need to do and when?

By assessing what your employees’ value, sharing often-overlooked information and mapping out a clear communications strategy, you may find that your next open enrollment period is easier than it’s ever been before.

Have you ever wondered whether a safety incentive program could be a useful tool for reducing injuries in your workplace?

There are two common types of these programs — rate-based and behavior-based. Rate-based programs may allow for rewards such as bonuses and prizes for having no (or a limited number) of work-related injuries and illnesses, while behavior-based programs focus on safe behaviors but are not tied to low injury and illness rates.

Debate rages on about the effectiveness of such programs and there is growing awareness of the need to address both their potential and their pitfalls. The problem is that some programs, intentionally or unintentionally, provide employees with an incentive to NOT report injuries.

Significance of reporting injuries and illness

In a recent report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) examine the effects of safety incentive programs on reporting of injuries.1

Knowing the effects — positive and negative — of incentives is important for businesses to accurately assess workplace safety. Most experts agree that issues tend to stem from rate-based programs, which may discourage reporting in a variety of ways. For example, incentives sometimes create peer pressure because a team may get a reward only if no one in the group has an injury.

The phenomenon of not reporting injuries has been nicknamed “bloody pocket syndrome” (named for an employee who cuts a finger and puts his hand in his pocket instead of reporting the injury for fear of blowing the team’s chance at an incentive).

Underreporting incidents can lead to the continuation of hazardous conditions and dangerous behaviors in the workplace. By choosing to reward and reinforce safe actions with a behavior-based approach, businesses can be sure their safety incentive programs are fulfilling their intended purpose of a safer workplace for all.

Components of a successful safety incentive program

With nearly three million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 20112, businesses are seeking ways to maintain a safe and secure workplace.

Positive results may be achieved when you create an organizational structure that allows individuals to take responsibility for their own safety as well as the safety of their co-workers. How can you help achieve this goal? Here are some examples to help your business.

Design your program to emphasize positive reinforcement of safe behaviors rather than rewarding behaviors that may result in unreported injuries.

  1. Include employees in the setting of goals and rewards.
  2. Foster an environment of open communication about safety issues and the reporting of incidents.
  3. Provide regular feedback to employees on the progress being made toward meeting safety goals.
  4. Hold a recognition party at the successful completion of company-wide safety training.
  5. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your safety incentive program.

Most importantly, make your incentive program just one component of a broad safety-minded culture that focuses on encouraging safe worker behaviors for all.

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