Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Category: Employee support (Page 2 of 8)

Get tips and news to support your employees.

3 ways to rethink your employee benefits communication strategy

During your open enrollment period, you probably receive a flood of questions from your employees about their health benefits. But questions and confusion about benefits don’t begin and end with open enrollment. And for most companies, confusion about benefits is a major problem.

  • Only 39% of employees fully understood their company health insurance policies, according to a recent survey.
  • Nearly 20% of employees said they weren’t sure they understood the benefits they signed up for.
  • Almost half weren’t sure what their annual health coverage costs were.

The same survey found that this confusion about benefits can overwhelm employees, to the point that they often give up trying to understand them.

  • Nearly 20% of surveyed employees said they didn’t do any research before choosing their health benefits.
  • More than 90% of employees said they simply sign up for the same benefits year after year.

As a result, your employees may be spending too much to over-insure themselves, or conversely might be compromising their health by passing on important benefits to try to cut costs.

This confusion can be bad for your company’s bottom line as well, wasting available benefits and contributing to rising health care costs.

With is in mind, it might be time to rethink your benefits communication game.

Benefits communication: It’s not just for open enrollment anymore

Certainly, reaching out to employees about their benefits during open enrollment is always a good idea. But remember that your employees probably have questions and concerns about benefits throughout the year, and particularly when they have to use them. 

Look for opportunities to educate employees while benefits are on their mind.

  • At the beginning of the calendar or plan year, you can remind employees about new benefits available to them or that their new deductibles and maximums have reset
  • At the end of the calendar or plan year, you can encourage them to use their benefits before their deductibles and maximums reset
  • During the summer, you can suggest that employees with children take their kids to the dentist before they return to school
  • When employees move, or their office moves to a new area, you can offer them tips on how to find a nearby in-network dentist
  • When they experience a qualifying life event, such as getting married or having a baby, you can explain how to add a dependent to their dental plans

Help your employees help themselves

A single 20-something employee with a pet iguana is going to have very different health care needs than a married 50-year-old with a large family. What they might have in common, though, is their understanding of health care plans and their lingo — next to none.

So rather than simply mailing out printed plan guides that most employees don’t read anyway, find resources that target your employees and their unique dental plan needs to help them choose a plan that right for them.

  • For example, Delta Dental offers answers to frequently asked questions, which includes information about dental plans, such as the difference between PPO and DHMO-type plans, explanations of networks and orthodontic benefits and many other topics.
  • Delta Dental also offers helpful videos that explain Delta Dental plans, networks and more.

And be as transparent as possible with costs. If you haven’t already, share specifically how much employees will pay when they enroll in different plans.

Make benefits a two-way street

As you strive to better educate employees about their benefits, don’t miss the opportunity to have them educate you as well. Given the chance, employees might provide you with valuable information about what they want — and don’t want — in their benefits. Give employees multiple forums to provide you with feedback. A few possibilities include:

  • Q&A sessions
  • Polls
  • Surveys

The questions and comments you receive can help you tailor your benefits communication strategies by uncovering new issues, such questions about virtual dental care options.

Remember, benefits communication is about more than open enrollment. Building a strong communications strategy is important for the health of both your employees and your company. By creating effective, personalized and tech-friendly communications, you’ll potentially save money and time, and ensure that your employees get the benefits they want and need.

Has COVID-19 changed open enrollment forever?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused long-lasting changes to our priorities as a society and as individuals. From canceled events, working from home and separation from friends and family, employees and employers have had to adapt. It’s no wonder that the uncertainty of the pandemic has created changes in open enrollment.

Greater focus on the whole family

In the past year and a half, many adults became caregivers for their parents and took on education roles for their children while also working full-time. Employees are looking for benefits that extend to their family members and benefits that make the care of their family easier, like family and medical leave, assisted living coverage and child care coverage. Getting the whole family covered even extends to furry friends; the number of pets insured in North America has increased 23% since 2019.

Mental health services are more important than ever

The stress and difficulty of the pandemic have taken a toll on mental health. The percentage of adults in the U.S. who reported symptoms of anxiety and depression increased from 36% to 42% between August 2020 and February 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Before the pandemic, Americans only chose virtual options for mental health care 20% of the time. After the pandemic started, the American Psychiatric Association saw their own members’ usage of telehealth services jump to 85%.

Employers are responding by offering mental health benefits that include access to online resources and apps that address stress and difficulty sleeping. About 70% of employers planned to start, continue or expand investment in mental health resources in 2021, according to a survey by McKinsey & Company. Employers who invest in mental health coverage get results. Almost 86% of employees who are treated for depression symptoms show substantial improvement in work performance, according to one study.

Employees expect to keep using telehealth options

While virtual visits won’t completely replace in-person visits any time soon, they’re definitely sticking around. Telehealth visits spiked during March 2020, but there were 10 times more telehealth visits in March 2021 than in March 2020, according to a market report.

Employees are using telehealth services and, in many cases, they expect to keep using it. In some cases, patients rated their interactions with their providers higher when they had virtual appointments than in-person.

To appeal to a variety of employee preferences, Delta Dental offers two different kinds of virtual dentistry: video-based and photo-based.

Virtual events preferred over in-person

With many employees still working from home and continually changing safety recommendations, in-person enrollment events are still being pushed online. Luckily, virtual enrollment has advantages for you and your employees. Instead of fielding phone calls and emails all day, you can update your website in real time to address common questions. Your employees can research and select benefits without having to keep track of physical papers or even leave the house.

What do successful virtual open enrollment events look like? A study by Flimp Communications concluded that a high-performing open enrollment campaign includes:

  • Microsites. These websites are customized to fulfill your group’s specific benefits needs with unique visuals, video and copy and can be used to address employees’ frequently asked questions.
  • Video. Both short-form and long-form video have a place in your campaign. A short-form video may simply be a quick, supplemental explainer and a long-form video would be more detailed and available for employees on demand.
  • Links. Linking out to your enrollment portal, to helpful PDFs, contact pages or financial-wellness portals helps employees sign up for and best utilize their benefits.
  • Decision support. Tools that collect all key benefits information into one place and then make recommendations based on algorithms or questionnaires had higher-than-average engagement.
  • Analytics. With real-time analytics, you and your team can adjust to help employees answer questions online. When you know what drives traffic, what people want, and when people want it, you’ll be even better prepared for next time.

The pros and cons of virtual events

Technology has its limits, however. The Pew Research Center found that only 26% of internet users aged 65 years or older felt very confident when using electronics to get things done online. If all your materials are online, make sure they’re easy to find for all employees, regardless of skill with technology. That means clearly labeling links and having logical paths through your website, as well as making sure all materials can be easily downloaded and viewed without special software.

In that same vein, virtual open enrollment gives you the opportunity to make materials accessible to employees with disabilities. Gaps in accessibility can leave individuals with visual, hearing and motor disabilities unable to make informed decisions about their health care.

Open enrollment changes motivated by COVID-19 may be here to stay. Adapt your open enrollment offerings to serve employees’ needs during and beyond the pandemic. Being flexible and responsive helps ensure your employees understand their benefits for the year ahead and are able to get the coverage they need.

Oral health resources for Spanish-speaking employees

Language should never be a barrier to receiving proper care. One in seven people in the U.S. speaks Spanish at home, yet Hispanic adults with limited proficiency in English receive about one-third less health care than those with English proficiency.

In taking steps to bridge this gap, Delta Dental offers a variety of language assistance options for both you and your Spanish-speaking employees with a limited proficiency in English. Whether your employees are looking to improve their health from home or in their dentist’s chair, there is a resource just for them.

Resources for benefits administrators

  • Our website, and all its offerings, can be found in Spanish. This includes plan information, wellness articles, videos and even Grin! magazine and is a perfect introduction to Delta Dental for new employees with limited English. You can assist your employees in finding the information they need about their plan by sharing helpful links that have already been translated.
  • Flyers are a great way to share important information on common issues and conditions with your employees. Many of our monthly wellness materials and benefits resources can be found translated and ready to print on our Employee Resources page, which is also available in English. Looking for a document that’s available in English, but not yet in Spanish? Let your account manager know and our team will be happy to make a translation available.

Resources for employees

  • Customer Service is available in Spanish, as well as English. To talk to a representative in Spanish, members can call 866–530-9675 and dial 8 when prompted. Answers to our most frequently asked questions are also available in Spanish on our website.
  • Interpretation services are also available for in-person dental appointments when a Spanish-speaking staff member isn’t available. To request this service, members should contact Customer Service at least 72 hours in advance of an appointment.
  • The online dentist directory is not only available in Spanish, but it includes information on which practices have Spanish-speaking staff. Members can use the Refine Search tool to find a Spanish-speaking dentist nearby.

Helping your employees find the right dentist to fit their needs has never been easier. Learn more about Delta Dental’s Language Assistance Program and how it can benefit your diverse team.

It’s time to get comfortable with casual dress codes

The business formal dress code has been dying for decades. The rebellious anti-dress codes of ‘70s Silicon Valley spread slowly through American offices until business casual struck even the most old-school firms in the 1990s. The rise of the tech start-up in the 2000s has slackened dress codes even more. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, dress codes are relaxing even more.

The pandemic has shifted employee expectations

After more than a third of American workers spent the better part of a year working from home, getting them back to the office may be enough of a problem. Getting them back into blazers and slacks? That may not happen at all.

Casual dress policies have long been considered a perk, but for some workers they’ve been turning into a requirement for some workers. The shift from soft and stretchy loungewear at home to less comfortable clothes is just not desirable for employees., especially in a market where businesses are struggling to hire.

What’s the point of your dress code?

It’s important for your company to nail down why it has the dress code it does to see whether it can change. Is it the desire to be perceived externally as professional? Is the goal to maximize productivity? If so, how is your dress code maximizing productivity?

There’s a popular belief that to work their best, employees need to dress their best and that can be true. Wearing a suit may give a sales representative more confidence and authority, but people in other positions may not need those boosts to be efficient in their job. It may be more distracting dealing with shoes that hurt your feet or slacks and button ups that are too heavy for the summer heat. In those cases, the cons of uncomfortable clothing may out weight the pros.

The financial burden of formal dress codes

It’s easy to say that people who have uncomfortable work attire should just buy new clothes, but is that always reasonable? Work suits can cost hundreds of dollars and professional clothes for women can be prohibitively expensive and the costs can add up quickly. Business casual outfits cost much less on average which allows workers to invest in more options and replace uncomfortable workwear.

For women, makeup and hair care present an additional financial burden as well as a considerable time commitment. Women spend an average of 55 minutes on grooming and $8 worth of makeup each day. Many women have reported that they intend to leave additional grooming behind after a year of not needing to go through their routines.

Online work and relaxed dress codes may help lessen the divide between the cost of men and women’s work wardrobes will hopefully lessen. If your weight fluctuates, you don’t need to buy a full suit or new dress to be comfortable and professional on video calls. Casual or no makeup can free up time to get other things done, so you’re less stressed while working.

Finding the balance

For most companies, returning to in office work in some capacity is a necessity. This is the opportune moment for a company to reassess its dress code to prioritize productivity, diversity and inclusion and the company culture they want to cultivate. Figuring out a way to balance an employee’s expectations of comfort and financial investments with what is an actual necessity for your company is a great place to start.

How COVID-19 brought challenges and solutions in dentistry for seniors

Times of crisis call for creative solutions, and that’s never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Innovative dentists have sought to adapt many aspects of their practices, but especially those involving the most vulnerable segment of our population: older adults.

New challenges for seniors’ oral health

For many seniors, even before the advent of COVID-19, physical limitations, systemic disease, cognitive decline and dependence on caregivers could all lead to an overall decline in oral health. What’s more, the pandemic worsened many of these same problems while presenting new ones.

“COVID-19 laid bare weaknesses in our elder care system,” said moderator Stephen K. Shuman, DDS, MS, in a webinar on pandemic-related disruptions in oral health care hosted by the Gerontological Society of America.

Some of the challenges in oral health care for seniors during the pandemic have included:

  • Reduced access. Early in the pandemic, many dentists’ offices shuttered, and even when they reopened, fear of COVID-19 led many older adults to delay or entirely forego visits to the dentist’s office. Nearly half of U.S. adults reported delaying dental care due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the spring of 2020, and the increased risk posed by COVID-19 to seniors likely exacerbated the problem among older adults.
  • Reduced care. In long-term care facilities, daily brushing, flossing and other routine care tasks were sometimes put on the back burner as COVID-19 diverted staff members to provide more urgent care to those affected or at risk. Proper oral care could also be challenged by staff members’ fears about the potential for oral transmission of COVID-19. Staffing shortages in facilities and on oral care teams made the situation worse. Georgia and Minnesota reported staffing shortages in long-term care facilities of more than 25% during the pandemic, and a recent poll from the ADA Health Policy Institute found that more than 80% of owner dentists who are currently hiring consider recruitment of dental hygienists and assistants to be extremely or very challenging at this time.
  • Psychosocial problems. The loneliness, anxiety and depression caused by shelter-at-home orders could themselves worsen oral health among older Americans.

Solutions in oral health care for seniors during the pandemic

Just as the COVID-19 presented new problems, it also created potential for positive long-term change.

Teledentistry and teletriage

Through necessity, many dentists began refining techniques for the use of teledentistry and teletriage, using telecommunications technology to deliver health services and information.

Some companies began implementing or built up their existing “pandemic teledentistry.” Teams used cloud-based electronic health records and taught long-term care facility staff how to take useful images of patient mouths and send them to centrally located dentists.

At the height of the pandemic, 24.8% of responding dentists reported they were conducting remote problem-focused evaluations through virtual technology or telecommunications, according to polling from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute.

Some innovative dentists used what they referred to as assisted, or guided, oral hygiene during the pandemic. They used the latest audio and video technology to guide a patient or caregiver as they carried out oral hygiene on a regularly scheduled basis.

Mobile dentistry

While the pandemic restricted mobile care in some cases, its primary advantage of reducing the need to transport at-risk seniors also caused it to emerge as another possible solution.

Many dentists were already accustomed to setting up mobile units in long-term care facilities even before the pandemic. Mobile dentistry helps reduce the potential for stress and confusion caused by moving older patients or those with dementia.  With the latest mobile equipment deployed to long-term care facilities, dentists are able to perform simple extractions, restorative work and more in a timely manner. As in many dental offices, mobile units often add an external dental suction that uses ultraviolet light and filters to remove pathogens from the air.

How to support your senior employees and relatives through the pandemic

COVID-19 presented extraordinary challenges to your senior employees, retirees and those caring for elderly relatives. The new solutions that helped maintain health care for older adults during the pandemic are likely here to stay.

To support your senior employees throughout the pandemic:

  • Communicate. Oral health care should never be placed on the back burner, and maintaining good communication with your employees is crucial to emphasize the importance of oral health. As always, keep in mind the systemic relationship between oral health and overall well-being. Use email campaigns, social media and other reminders to encourage the maintenance of oral hygiene routines among your senior employees throughout the pandemic.
  • Discuss new approaches. Teledentistry can now connect older adults with oral health care providers when they can’t visit a dental clinic or if there are restrictions on dental providers visiting residential facilities. The option is available at no added cost under Delta Dental PPO™ and Delta Dental Premier® plans, so discuss teledentistry with your employees if you think it might be right for them.

Tips for remote work a year into the pandemic

When coronavirus hit, many offices sprang into action and adapted to remote working environments. As we settle into our second year of living with a pandemic, there’s still much room for improvement in our day-to-day work lives. If you or your employees are working from home, consider sharing these tips to keep them in top mental and physical shape.

Create boundaries

When the lines between home and office blur, maintaining a proper work/life balance can be a challenge. Setting boundaries is important to both getting work done and knowing when the workday is done.

  • Separate your working and living spaces. While you likely didn’t choose your home based on the idea that you’d be working from it daily, carving out a space that’s dedicated to work is a great way to stay on task. Working from bed or a couch can muddle the idea of your home as your sanctuary. Find a corner where you can set up a desk and use it as your office.
  • Stay on schedule. Without a train to catch or traffic to beat, workers have gained back some of their valuable time. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American worker gained more than half an hour of leisure time in 2020. While it may be tempting to stay online past normal working hours, burnout is real and affected more than two thirds of the remote workforce last year. One report even found that people worked an average of 26 extra hours a month during the pandemic. For your mental health, disconnecting is vital. Set a schedule and stick to it to protect your personal time.
  • Limit distractions. Setting boundaries goes both ways. Just as you should protect your personal space and time, you should also remember when you’re on company time. Sharing your space with family and roommates can invite limitless distractions. If you can’t physically close a door behind you, communicate your working hours with the people you live with and set strict time limits for work and breaks. 

Set routines

In uncertain times, a little routine can go a long way. Creating a routine, the way you would if you were going into an office every day, helps give your day structure and can lower stress and encourage focus.  

  • Dress professionally. Yes, one of the perks from working from home has been escaping from the confines of structured suits and other constrictive workwear for cozy sweatpants. While you should absolutely be comfortable while you work, our brains can form a Pavlovian response to these kinds of clothes. Putting on professional attire is a great way to tell your brain that it’s time to buckle down and tackle the to-do list.
  • Build a routine. Routines give us a sense of structure, accomplishment and well-being. Give yourself time before work to savor coffee, do some journaling, read or go for a jog. If you’re not an early bird, reward yourself after work with some quiet time or a favorite show.

Stay healthy

The American Psychological Association recently reported that 61% of Americans experienced “undesirable weight gain” during quarantine. If you picked up some bad habits in the past year, you’re far from alone. Luckily, there are little things you can do throughout the day to get back on track.

  • Take more meaningful breaks. By now, you’ve heard the importance of getting away from your computer screen a few times a day. If you walk away from your computer screen only to find yourself staring at your phone screen, find other ways to occupy that time. Go for a walk around the block or do a few yoga stretches.
  • Stay on top of your oral health. The American Dental Association reported that routine dental visits were down 20% last year. If you’ve been snacking at your computer, breaks are a great time to squeeze in an extra brushing or flossing to keep your mouth healthy and refreshed.
  • Invest in ergonomics. If you’re still working from an old dining room chair or using an old TV dinner tray for a desk, it’s time to upgrade — your body will thank you for it. Haphazard workstations and poor posture can wreak havoc on your body. It can even cause jaw pain. Proper ergonomics doesn’t need to equal expensive new furniture. Often, a few height adjustments can work wonders. Check out this checklist to adapt your workstation. 
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