2020 Annual Enrollment Prep Guide: Achieve Benefits Success in the Age of COVID-19,  Part 1

2020 Annual Enrollment Prep Guide: Achieve Benefits Success in the Age of COVID-19, Part 1

Annual Enrollment is the central moment that defines the success of your benefits strategy, and this year the stakes are higher than ever. Discover how your HR team can cut through the noise to deliver positive results for your employees and business.

More employees are working from home than ever before, parents are juggling conference calls while their kids attend virtual classes, and companies are navigating the pandemic as the situation evolves every day. Meanwhile, benefit teams are tasked with getting through all of the noise and distractions to keep their employees engaged, satisfied, and productive.

Empyrean’s latest At-A-Glance Guide will help you orient your AE planning, so you can execute an enrollment season that will reach and resonate with your workforce during these unique times. Download your free copy of the guide today!

The coronavirus crisis has underscored the importance of selecting the right coverage choices in protecting participants’ health, financial wellbeing, and overall peace of mind. In addition to the benefits package their employer offers, employees also need proper support to choose and utilize the right plans for their needs.

The way we work has been fundamentally and forever altered by the coronavirus pandemic. Moving forward, it is largely expected that many employees will continue to work remotely – even after the threat of the virus has passed. As you plan for this year’s virtual enrollment, consider improvements and new approaches to implement that will serve you in tomorrow’s remote-work environment – including your technology platforms.

Take time to consider the many ways COVID-19 has impacted your workforce, so you can adjust your enrollment strategy as necessary. Think of this year as an opportunity to optimize your open enrollment period and test new avenues to engage employees.

Here are a few steps to consider:

Plan and prep early
Everyone is working under new conditions – including you and your team. Give yourself extra time to prepare for this year’s AE and adjust to the challenges of fully virtual collaboration and communication. Create clearly defined roles and set a calendar of milestones for your team that includes post-AE follow up. Dedicate an extra week (or more, if possible) to ensure you have everything in order for a smooth enrollment season.

Keep employees focused
Like you, your workforce is adjusting to major shifts brought on by the pandemic. Employees across all populations are facing more distractions to enrollment than ever before. Consider reaching out to employees earlier – and more often – than in previous years. Begin reaching out to employees at least 60 days before your enrollment window opens. Regardless of whether you’re holding an active or passive enrollment, all employees should be encouraged to review their benefits to make sure they have the right coverage – especially as the situation around COVID-19 remains unpredictable. Early and continuous communication will help keep your enrollment metrics on track.

Review your AE goals
The emergence of the coronavirus has forced many businesses to rethink their priorities and goals this year. How has the pandemic impacted the structure of your company or workforce? How might you need to adjust your benefits strategy or enrollment expectations to accommodate these recent changes? Spend time thinking through recent changes and potential adjustments with your team to develop a clear understanding of where your strategy stands today.

RELATED: Explore how COVID-19 will shape the future of work in a post-pandemic world.

As you plan, remember to also review the following topics:

Eligibility rules and gatekeeping processes
How have your employee populations and eligibility rules changed since last year? To avoid data issues from ineligible elections, you’ll want to make sure your employees and dependent eligibility rules are precisely aligned with your organization’s needs and requirements. Take care especially when managing multiple complex populations with unique attributes (such as union employees, furloughed employees, grandfathered populations, and retirees).

Regulatory compliance requirements
Address any compliance concerns early on in your AE planning, to allow your team and vendors time to review and resolve any issues as needed. Also ensure your solution is properly aligned with the latest updates from the IRS, including those related to COVID-19 relief efforts. Your benefits administration partner should offer dedicated in-house expertise to help keep your business in consistent compliance and protected from potential penalties.

Additional benefits and resources
Annual Enrollment is the time of year when your employees are most focused on their benefits. In addition to ensuring they select the right coverage, AE is also a crucial time to remind employees about all of the benefits, tools, and resources available to them. Telehealth services, wellness programs, financial wellness resources, and your employee assistance program (EAP) can be especially helpful options for employees during this particularly stressful time. Take advantage of the spotlight AE brings to your benefits to drive greater value and encourage employees to leverage their entire benefits package.

READ MORE: Discover how employers are adapting to the challenges of COVID-19 without getting overwhelmed.

After reviewing key topics with your team, regroup with your benefits administration technology partner to discuss your objectives for AE. Your service team should be able to provide you with year-over-year insights into your company’s goals, best practices to support your benefits strategy, and ideas to address any specific concerns you have related to COVID-19 or your overall plans.

As you collaborate with your vendors, take time to evaluate the solutions, service, and support they provide to your team and your participants. And for more tips and ideas, download Empyrean’s new At-A-Glance Guide, “2020 Annual Enrollment Prep Guide: Achieve Benefits Success in the Age of COVID-19.”

While many things have changed, you don’t have to leave the success of your benefits program to chance. Optimizing your Open Enrollment approach today will help prepare you and your employees for tomorrow’s virtual world.

The Future of Work and Benefits after COVID-19, Part 2

The Future of Work and Benefits after COVID-19, Part 2

By Rich Wolfe, Chief Executive Officer and Steve Campbell, Chief Human Resources Officer

In part two of our series, we take a closer look at how perspectives on the typical office environment and employee wellness will shift after COVID-19.

For part one of this post series, please click here.

Reimagining of the Traditional Office

From restaurants to retail environments, COVID-19 has demanded a serious reconsideration of how we structure our everyday lives and spaces, and the office environment is no exception. As companies consider welcoming workers back to their facilities, they must also be prepared to make changes in accordance with the latest health and safety standards.

For example, open-plan offices have gained popularity over the years, and as many as 70% of offices now utilize this layout.1 Without barriers like cubicle walls, however, open workspaces can make infection control more difficult to manage. Converting an existing workspace away from an open design can be a challenge, but adding privacy features like walls or partitions may actually pay off in terms of increased productivity.2

“Hoteling” is another approach to space utilization that we are likely to see more of in the post-COVID-19 workspace. With hoteling, employees are not assigned a permanent desk. Instead, they are free to utilize any available workstation to suit their needs and schedule. The hoteling concept allows facility managers to make the most of their space without the need to increase their office footprint (provided the proper sanitizing measures are in place).

One particularly important task when planning your office reopening is determining which employees actually need to be in the office, and which employees can continue working remotely. As companies leverage staggered office schedules and more employees opt to permanently work from home, the hotel desk concept may be a good fit for businesses looking to manage facility costs alongside financial impacts and opportunities.

RELATED: Learn how to reach employees working outside of the traditional office without adding to your workload.

Renewed Focus on Holistic Employee Wellbeing

Along with health concerns, COVID-19 has also caused significant financial stress for many people and their families. In the past, however, financial wellness initiatives have often been harder to define than other aspects of employee benefit programs – especially as employers navigate the wide range of program options and employee needs regarding their financial health.

Moving forward, we can expect financial wellness to become a key area of focus for proactive benefit teams looking to ease anxieties brought about by the economic effects of the pandemic. Companies may look to offer more comprehensive programs, resources, and decision support tools that offer clear guidance to help employees reach their unique savings and budgeting goals.

READ MORE: Discover practical solutions to help address the financial challenges facing your workforce.

Additionally, although your workforce may enjoy a greater sense of flexibility while working remotely, there is also a heightened opportunity for employee burnout as a result of such changes. Today, employees are having to mentally shift their concept of work-life balance all the while working from home.

Without the defined boundaries of the office environment or their daily commute, employees may find it hard to fully “unplug” after their work day is over. With many employees expected to remain remote after the pandemic passes, addressing the risks of employee burnout is an important task that HR teams must be ready to tackle sooner rather than later.

Employees’ mental health will remain an important priority as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to disrupt everyday life. Building awareness of your mental health resources and benefits – such as wellness programs and employee assistance programs (EAP) – will be a particularly crucial task to help support your employees through this transition.

Your benefits administration provider should be aligned with your benefits strategy throughout this unique period (including accommodating any additional focus on employees’ financial, mental, and overall wellbeing) and be ready to communicate and adjust to any changes as necessary to best support your employees.

HR leaders remain at the forefront of helping guide employees through this uniquely challenging period. For expert tips to help manage the latest demands on your business and communication strategy, check out Empyrean’s COVID-19 Communication Guide here.  And for the latest insights into employee benefits, download your copy of the 2020 Benefit Trends Report from Empyrean.

Looking toward the future, it is clear that reliable partnerships and the right technology will become even more critical for every company’s continued success. As you develop and evolve your own COVID-19 strategy, be sure to evaluate the preparedness level of your partners as well. Doing so now will help ensure that both your business and workforce are ready to tackle whatever comes next – no matter what.


  1. Agovino, Theresa. “Fine-Tuning the Open Office.” Society for Human Resource Management. Alexandria, VA. June 2019.
  2. Wertz, Jia. “Open-Plan Work Spaces Lower Productivity and Employee Morale.” Forbes. Jersey City, NJ. June 2019.
The Future of Work and Benefits after COVID-19, Part 1

The Future of Work and Benefits after COVID-19, Part 1

By Rich Wolfe, Chief Executive Officer and Steve Campbell, Chief Human Resources Officer

In this first post of this two-part series, we examine several ways in which COVID-19 has changed how and where work gets done, and explore how these effects may shape the future of work in a post-pandemic world.

In just a short time, COVID-19 has had a profound and long-lasting impact on the way people and organizations everywhere approach their work. While there is much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, there are also valuable opportunities for organizations to evaluate the status quo, optimize their operations, and stay adaptive.

A major factor driving these opportunities has been the switch to remote work – as well as the need for secure and mobile-ready technology to support this move. Here, we look at how these changes will affect the way employers approach the concept of work going forward.

Increased Demand for Remote Work and Job Flexibility

Remote work capabilities are a defining factor among companies that were best prepared to handle the sudden emergence of COVID-19. Today, the ability to work from home is no longer just an employee perk; it is fast becoming an employee expectation, and has also proven to be an essential element of a strong business continuity plan.

Prior to the pandemic, there had been a 91% increase in the number of employees working remotely since 2009.1 Now, an estimated 66% of employees are working from home 2 – and both employers and employees are beginning to recognize the benefits of working outside of the traditional office space.

Working from home saves employees time and money by eliminating the costs associated with a typical work day, including the daily commute. Companies with a large remote employee population can also save on facility expenses, as well as widen access to top talent outside of a company’s immediate vicinity.

While working from home was certainly gaining popularity before the current pandemic, COVID-19 has pushed employers to embrace remote work at a pace that some HR leaders did not expect for at least another decade. Today, both employees and employers are recognizing that working in the usual office setting may not be necessary or even as productive as once thought.

Some organizations have struggled to overcome concerns about productivity and professionalism while allowing employees to work outside of the office. These concerns are understandable, but employees can actually be more productive when working from home under the right conditions.3

For many people, the flexibility afforded by working from home will be difficult to relinquish after this pandemic has passed. Moving forward, business leaders can expect job flexibility and remote work capabilities to remain a significant draw for talent – especially now that employees have experienced the benefits of remote work for themselves.

RELATED: How to reach your mobile workforce with engaging benefits messaging without adding more to your plate

Secure and Mobile Technology for Business Continuity

The organizations that have seen the most success during the COVID-19 pandemic were those that maintained a modern mobility strategy as a key focus of their technology infrastructure. Social distancing measures and lockdowns have made it difficult (and in some cases, unsafe) for employees to travel and work in the office as usual. Now it is crucial that employees have access to the secure technology solutions necessary to ensure productivity, collaboration, and data security across their entire team – regardless of location.

Unfortunately, not all businesses were prepared for such a sudden shift in their daily operations. For instance, a key aspect of a strong mobility strategy is 100% laptop deployment – paired with access to a secure virtual private network (VPN).

One important limitation on mobility is that traditional offices have typically relied on static desktop computers for employee use. While laptop computers often require a larger investment than desktop machines, they also ensure that employees have the hardware and software necessary to work while away from the office. After the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect companies to focus more heavily on optimizing their technology infrastructure to support more robust mobility strategies and business continuity plans, including the switch to mobile hardware.

While organizations adjust to sudden changes in operations, this is also an important time to evaluate the preparedness of your key vendors. It is imperative that your essential business providers – such as your benefits enrollment and administration partner  – were properly prepared prior to the emergence COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure you and your employees continued to experience uninterrupted, high-quality benefits service.

READ MORE: Discover the three essential aspects of a benefits administration platform and find the best partner for your business

As working from home becomes increasingly mainstream, HR teams must focus on building a strong communications strategy, developing a remote-friendly culture, and assembling the right vendors to support employees’ needs across a widely dispersed workforce. How are your partners prepared to help you make the necessary shifts to meet these changes head on?

For more insights into how employee benefits will evolve due to COVID-19, download the 2020 Benefit Trends Report from Empyrean here – and be sure to check back for part two of this post coming soon.


  1. Reynolds, Brie Weiler. “159% Increase in Remote Work Since 2005: FlexJobs & Global Workplace Analytics Report.” FlexJobs Corporation. Boulder, CO. July 2019.
  2. “Working from Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic: The State of Remote Work.” Clutch Co, LLC. Washington, D.C. April 2019.
  3. Choudhury, P., Larson, B., and Foroughi, C. “Is it Time to Let Employees Work from Anywhere?” Harvard Business Review. Boston, MA. August 2019.
Empyrean Stands in Solidarity with the Black Community and our Colleagues of Color

Empyrean Stands in Solidarity with the Black Community and our Colleagues of Color

By Rich Wolfe, Chief Executive Officer

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact millions of Americans, so too do systemic injustices against African Americans and people of color. As a company that is a proud of our diverse and inclusive workforce, Empyrean supports the nationwide call to bring an end to racial inequality and violence.

In just a short time, we have witnessed incomprehensible brutality, as well as seen communities come together in the spirit of change. This is an intensely challenging time in our history, and it is up to each of us to maintain our composure, reflect on our values and privileges, and take responsibility for our actions as we work to shape and set an example for the future.

This is a moment rife with anxiety and uncertainty, as cities and businesses across the country grapple with the reality of simultaneous public health and civil rights crises. The tragic and wrongful deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Amaud Arbery, and so many others has understandably sparked outrage and grief that has led to a global call for action. Nationwide demonstrations have encouraged renewed dialogue about how people of color are treated in this country, and what we as a society – and as community and business leaders – can do better.

While the damage to livelihoods and neighborhoods during moments of violence have been saddening, we are also deeply inspired and moved by the peaceful demonstrations and enlightening conversations that have taken place in cities around the world.

There is much work to be done in order to unite, heal, and move forward. Answers and change will not come overnight. In the meantime, we hope you and your families remain safe and healthy, as we work together to bring an end to injustice and discrimination everywhere.

Empyrean stands with those that oppose racism, intolerance, and violence in our communities. We look forward to the day when equality is a reality, and we are committed to doing our part to ensure that day comes.

COVID-19 Update: The Latest on How Empyrean is Keeping Our Clients Connected and Our Employees Safe

COVID-19 Update: The Latest on How Empyrean is Keeping Our Clients Connected and Our Employees Safe

By Rich Wolfe, Chief Executive Officer

As many states begin relaxing stay-at-home orders and businesses prepare to reopen, Empyrean remains focused on helping our clients and participants navigate the latest impacts to their benefits while keeping our employees protected.

HR teams all across the country are grappling with the sudden changes and uncertainty brought on by COVID-19. At Empyrean, we recognize the difficult challenges and decisions you are facing regarding your workforce and business – and as always, we’re here to help.

Right now, the dependability of your benefits administration partner is the last thing you should have to worry about. The accuracy of your benefits data and the quality of your service cannot be compromised, especially now. That’s why our Empyrean team is working to ensure your solution and services continue performing as expected – without interruption – every single day.

From managing workforce reductions, special open enrollment periods, and the most recent compliance updates, to making sure your employees have access to the most up-to-date benefits information – Empyrean is here to support you every step of the way.

And like you, we know that our people are what truly drive our success. That’s why the wellbeing of our employees and their families has remained our top priority as we plan for the months ahead. With our employees’ safety in mind, Empyrean will continue our company-wide remote work policy through at least June 30, 2020.

Our leadership and crisis management teams are carefully monitoring the latest developments around COVID-19, and may extend this policy as the situation evolves. Each of our locations will also conduct a phased re-entry once it is deemed safe for employees to return to the office.

While the majority of our workforce remains at home, Empyrean’s facilities continue to be monitored and kept secure 24/7/365. As part of our robust business continuity planning, all Empyrean teams are 100% virtually enabled and laptop deployed. This preparedness allowed Empyrean employees to immediately transition to working remotely, while other vendors struggled to make the switch.

Today, all Empyrean services remain up and running with full capabilities, and we are pleased to announce that there have been no service interruptions for our clients due to COVID-19. We continue to welcome new clients onto the Empyrean Platform, and to help our current clients adapt to the many changes they are facing during this crisis.

Empyrean is working closely with our clients and partners to assist with creative solutions to support employers’ rapidly evolving needs. We are also transitioning new customers onto the Empyrean Platform via our fully virtual implementation and testing processes. Meanwhile, our in-house compliance experts are keeping a close eye on the latest updates to benefits compliance regulations and best practices as we navigate this new environment.

During these difficult times, it has been truly inspiring to witness the resilience and dedication of those in our community. I continue to hear from our customers, who are sharing stories of how they are overcoming their toughest obstacles with the help of our team. We are immensely proud of everything we have accomplished together, even while apart. I look forward to celebrating these successes in person when we are able to safely gather once more.

I want to again express my appreciation for all who are working to make this new normal a little easier for everyone – including health care workers, essential employees, and employees and their families at home nationwide. While the current situation has challenged us, the strength and support of those around us continue to inspire hope for the future.

And as always, Empyrean is here to help guide you through the every change surrounding COVID-19 and your employee benefits. Please reach to your client service team directly or contact us at info@goempyrean.com if we can be of assistance at any time.

On behalf of all of us at Empyrean, I hope you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy. Thank you for the invaluable work you are doing every day to keep your employees protected and your company moving in the right direction.

COVID-19 Update: Empyrean is Committed to Supporting the HR Community

COVID-19 Update: Empyrean is Committed to Supporting the HR Community

By Rich Wolfe, Chief Executive Officer

In just a few short weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected countless lives and businesses. Now more than ever, you need a partner that you can rely on, and your employees need access to benefits support they can trust. Learn what the Empyrean Team is doing to keep your participants connected to their benefits during this crucial time.

Everyday life has undergone a major shift in the past few weeks, and there’s no doubt that this is an anxious time for many. People are concerned about their health and mental wellbeing, their families, their finances, and more. Meanwhile, many employees (quite possibly yourself included) are learning how to balance the demands of working remotely while caring for children and loved ones at home.

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now – but as an Empyrean client, you can be certain that your benefits administration is taken care of, no matter what.

From transitioning to a remote workforce to restructuring your organization, Human Resources and benefits professionals are facing some of the toughest challenges of their careers. There is no time to deal with solution failings, service interruptions, or data errors. We understand, and we’re here to help.

You count on Empyrean to be there for you and your employees, and our team takes that responsibility seriously. That’s why we’ve taken steps to ensure you never experience a drop in service due to a major disaster, emergency, or other unforeseen event – including the evolving situation surrounding COVID-19.

At Empyrean, business continuity is more than an action plan – it’s our promise to you. We’ve continuously invested in our infrastructure to quickly adapt to sudden changes or emergency situations whenever necessary, including leveraging remote work and service capabilities.

Empyrean recently implemented a remote work policy, which protects the health of our employees and their families while ensuring that your solution capabilities and service quality remain unchanged. Empyrean Team members are now utilizing secure technology to work from home where possible, and they retain access to all of the tools and resources they would have while in the office.

All Empyrean implementation and ongoing teams are trained and prepared to provide 100% of our services to all of our clients while working remotely. Your administrative services, participant services, and account team will all remain the same during this time.

To protect those employees who are essential to our on-site operations, we are also utilizing medical-grade sanitizers and enhanced cleaning practices at each of our three offices. Empyrean’s facilities continue to be maintained, monitored, and kept secure 24/7.

While the impacts of COVID-19 are unprecedented, you can trust that Empyrean is uniquely prepared to meet your needs as this situation unfolds. After Hurricane Harvey brought historic flooding to the Greater Houston area in 2017, our Empyrean Team proudly continued to support daily service, numerous implementations, and Annual Enrollment for our clients without interruption. Today, Empyrean continues to deliver on our commitment to bring certainty to you and your participants during this uncertain time.

Being able to confidently rely on your people and partnerships is so important, especially now. On behalf of all of us at Empyrean, we are thankful to be a trusted part of the HR community.

As people continue to practice social distancing, it’s crucial that you have the time to care for your people across those long distances. Empyrean is working to quiet the noise of benefits administration, so you can focus on what matters most. That is what our mission at Empyrean is all about, today and every day.

While this global pandemic may have brought about unexpected challenges for your business and employees, you can feel secure that Empyrean has your back every step of the way.

We’re here to help you get through this, together, and we’ll emerge on the other side of this crisis stronger than ever.

If our team can be of assistance to you in any way during this time, please let us know by reaching out to your Empyrean Client Service Manager, or feel free to contact our team at info@goempyrean.com.

Empyrean and Bloom Health: Leading the Evolution of Benefits Technology

Empyrean and Bloom Health: Leading the Evolution of Benefits Technology

Rich Wolfe, CEO Empyrean Benefit Solutions

Today we’re announcing big news: Bloom Health has officially joined the Empyrean family. Together, we’re moving towards a unified one-platform approach to bring the best benefits technology and services to employers and their employees.

Key issues when considering a private exchange strategy

Key issues when considering a private exchange strategy

By Rich Wolfe, CEO Empyrean Benefit Solutions

As the market for private exchanges in delivering health and welfare benefits has grown over the past few years, more employers than ever are considering if they should implement their own private exchange. If you’re one of those employers, I want to share some thoughts that hopefully will help you in your evaluation.