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Rebalance. Recharge. Reconnect. Preparing for Annual Enrollment 2022

Featuring results from the 2021 Employee Experience Survey

COVID 19 Coronavirus

July 21, 2021

With Annual Enrollment on the horizon, now is the perfect time to build a strategy to help employees rebalance, recharge and reconnect.

For many, 2021 is a year of moving forward. People are getting vaccinated, reunions with family and friends are back on the calendar, travel plans are picking up and many children will head back to school this fall. But it’s not the normal we knew before. The world has changed, and so have our ways of life and work. Many employees are reevaluating what’s most important in their lives and are making changes to better align with their priorities. Meanwhile, employers are taking this opportunity to rebalance their programs, optimizing costs and benefits, and focusing on the employee experience.

This is the time to listen, understand and respond in a thoughtful way — and to help employees recharge and work effectively while finding ways to focus on their personal wellbeing. A simple nudge to take some time away or a reminder that “life happens” and we all may need some support are important ways to help employees focus on taking care of themselves.

Annual Enrollment is an important opportunity to reconnect with employees and engage them in their benefit programs and wellbeing. Whether it's making employees aware of new and existing programs, ensuring they understand the support available for their changing needs or providing reassurance that much hasn’t changed, this is the time to communicate that their benefits are still here. Explore how your organization can support your people, help them make the right decisions for 2022, and build trust and connections that will last year-round.


While many employees are expected to continue working remotely, many too will return to the office this summer and fall. Although some will welcome this change, others will face it with anxiety or reluctance. In a typical day, many employees provide some level of child and elder care, run personal errands, and deal with illness or health problems, all while trying to bring their full selves to work. These challenges are evident in 70% of employees who struggle to find balance between work and home.1 Our research tells us that employees are seeking flexibility in their day-to-day work, with 40% of those working from home desiring a more flexible, mixed onsite/work-from-home experience in the future.1 This flexibility allows employees to maintain the work/life balance they experienced as a silver lining of the pandemic. This flexibility will be a significant factor for many organizations in attracting and retaining talent in today’s new world of work.

This is where optimizing benefits and Total Rewards programs comes into play, with a renewed focus on putting employee wellbeing at the center. Tip: Employers must listen, understand employee needs, and consider the affordability and efficacy of benefit programs to meet the diverse needs of all employees.

Use employee insights to inform your Annual Enrollment engagement strategy. Creating and deploying a listening strategy will help you make concrete, data-driven decisions and eliminate the guesswork in identifying which benefit programs you need to optimize for your employees. Interviews, focus groups (in person and virtual), and surveys are listening tools you can use to uncover perceptions, preferences, challenges and levels of understanding when it comes to benefits and wellbeing programs.


During last year’s Annual Enrollment season, the focus was on safety and health, ensuring coverage for COVID-related illnesses and the ability to get care when health care systems were overloaded and states were on lockdown. This year, however, is much more about holistic employee wellbeing – particularly emotional burnout and mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression, and financial wellbeing. According to our research, 82% of employers say that the pandemic will continue to have negative impacts on employee wellbeing in the next six months.1

Employers have prioritized these issues, and many are proactively addressing burnout and building campaigns to destigmatize mental health support, which includes commitment from leadership and training/support for managers as well.

Tip: Annual Enrollment is an important opportunity to capture employee attention on wellbeing, mental health and time-off programs to help employees cope with stress, burnout and new ways of living.

It's also imperative to equip managers with the skills and resources they need to become effective leaders who support employee wellbeing — from communicating benefit programs, recognizing signs of burnout, advocating employee wellbeing, maintaining team connections and ultimately leading change in the workplace.

An increasing number of organizations also are placing importance on applying a diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) lens to view their benefit and wellbeing programs. Reviewing benefits and communications through a DE&I lens will help ensure that companies are meeting the needs of a diverse workforce and making all cohorts of employees feel that their employer’s benefits programs are designed with their unique needs in mind. Some DE&I considerations that employers can take for their Annual Enrollment strategy are contextualizing and understanding the current climate, understanding individual priorities and situations, being mindful of language and imagery, looking at employee segments and groups differently, such as underrepresented groups, caregivers, female employees and critical skill employees, and ensuring communication vehicles comply with accessibility standards.


Employers must focus on clearly communicating about their benefit programs to make them accessible and engaging to employees. For 68% of organizations, communication is the most important priority in their benefit and wellbeing strategy this year — a continued theme over the past year.1

Tip: Digital engagement tools are essential in connecting employees to programs. It’s more important now than ever to reach people using better ways to connect digitally. It’s all about meeting people in all ways, wherever they may be, with small bites of information — whether remote, hybrid or back in the office full time. Technology can help you target and segment communication to the relevant audience at the right time.

Some of the most effective employee experience platforms to consider for reconnecting with your employees are virtual environments (e.g., virtual benefit fairs), personalized videos, text messaging, and responsive or interactive online publications. And if you haven’t yet considered your digital strategy, there’s still time to get started before Annual Enrollment for 2022.

Digital engagement tools can provide meaningful analytics to help guide the journey forward, because Annual Enrollment is just one (albeit important) part of engaging employees in their benefits.

Preparing for the Annual Enrollment season and beyond

Annual Enrollment is not just an event and a transaction, particularly this year. Employers must renew their focus on building a benefit strategy that is forward-looking and applies well beyond Annual Enrollment. Employee wellbeing, mental health and DE&I considerations are more important than ever in letting employees feel supported and cared for as they navigate post-pandemic life. With Annual Enrollment on the horizon, now is the perfect time to build a strategy to help employees rebalance, recharge and reconnect.

1 Willis Towers Watson’s 2021 Emerging from the Pandemic Survey


Managing Director, Communication and Change Management

Senior Director, Talent & Rewards

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