Can you hear me now?

Employee Benefit News - - EDITOR’S DESK - KATHRYN MAYER

“No mat­ter how good a job em­ploy­ers think they do when ed­u­cat­ing em­ploy­ees about their health and fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits, it usu­ally isn’t enough.”

WHEN IT COMES TO WORK (well, and life in gen­eral), I’m kind of a loner. As a re­mote em­ployee, I’m based out of my home in Denver, while all of my co­work­ers are based in our of­fices on the East Coast (greet­ings from the Mile High City, guys!)

Be­ing a re­mote worker has its perks — you know, like get­ting to wear sweat­pants and hav­ing an end­less sup­ply of coffee — but it also has its draw­backs.

Work-life balance feels hazier when you’re al­ways in your workspace and al­ways “on.” Where does work life end and home life be­gin? And there’s the whole iso­la­tion as­pect. I don’t con­nect with co­work­ers at af­ter-work happy hours or dur­ing the of­fice hol­i­day party. I don’t shoot the breeze at the wa­ter cooler. And of­fice gos­sip is pretty slow here — my dog is cute and all, but she’s no con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist.

Most no­tably, though, it’s harder for me to keep up to date about the go­ings-on in my of­fice — from new poli­cies to what’s hap­pen­ing in our ben­e­fits depart­ment.

That’s why work­place com­mu­ni­ca­tion from HR depart­ments is such a big is­sue for re­mote work­ers like me. Without it, I feel more iso­lated than ever.

I’m cer­tainly not alone in that re­spect — more and more work­forces are go­ing re­mote — which is just one rea­son ben­e­fits com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs to be a big­ger pri­or­ity than ever be­fore.

But un­for­tu­nately, it’s still a huge chal­lenge for em­ploy­ers of all sizes. Ac­cord­ing to Em­ployee Ben­e­fit Ad­viser’s Open En­roll­ment Readi­ness Bench­mark sur­vey, com­mu­ni­ca­tions is an Achilles’ heel: em­ploy­ers gave them­selves a grade of just 17 for their com­mu­ni­ca­tions plans on a scale of 1-100, with the lat­ter score in­di­cat­ing to­tal readi­ness.

“No mat­ter how good a job em­ploy­ers think they do when ed­u­cat­ing em­ploy­ees about their health and fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits, it usu­ally isn’t enough,” An­drew Brick­man, ac­count man­ager for em­ployee ben­e­fits firm Cor­po­rate Syn­er­gies, re­cently wrote in a blog on EBN’s web­site.

Like most is­sues, the first step is ac­knowl­edg­ing you have a prob­lem. And the good news is that there are a num­ber of em­ploy­ers who’ve done just that, and are now work­ing to re­vamp their com­mu­ni­ca­tions strate­gies as a re­sult.

From tech­nol­ogy and gam­i­fi­ca­tion to var­ied de­liv­ery ve­hi­cles, em- ploy­ers are com­ing up with so­lu­tions that are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to their em­ploy­ees. And, lucky for you, you can read about ben­e­fits com­mu­ni­ca­tions best prac­tices from Fu­jifilm, Black­Rock, Aon and Form­stack to help in­spire you on p. 14.

The thing about strong ben­e­fits com­mu­ni­ca­tions is, it’s not just about mak­ing sure your em­ploy­ees un­der­stand and are aware of their ben­e­fits (which of course is im­por­tant, too). It’s also about ac­knowl­edg­ing the new work cul­ture (in­clud­ing us re­mote em­ploy­ees!) and ac­knowl­edg­ing that things can’t stay the same as they once were. It’s about keep­ing em­ploy­ees aware, en­gaged and mak­ing them feel like they are part of a team. Be­cause if that’s not a pri­or­ity, then some­thing is ter­ri­bly wrong.

Send let­ters, queries and story ideas to Edi­tor-in-Chief Kathryn Mayer at kathryn.mayer@source­me­dia.com.

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