How to support HR mental health during open enrollment

HR professional speaks with another employee at a desk in an office setting
  • Date posted

    Sep 20, 2023

  • Estimated reading time

    5 minutes

An organization’s HR team is a critical component of daily operations. And yet, a recent SHRM study cites that nearly two-thirds of HR professionals are interested in leaving their field.

From recruitment to employee relations and performance management, your HR team is at the center of a happy, healthy company culture. This has an incredible impact on both employee and customer satisfaction which impacts your company’s bottom line.

HR professionals are often in unique situations where the problems they manage are deeply personal. For them, it’s rarely about an error in code development or implementation issues; instead, they deal with sensitive conversations around compensation and benefits or even employee interpersonal conflict.

These tasks are challenging on a good day and incredibly draining without the right support. At certain times of the year, HR employees are often extremely overworked—one of these times is during open enrollment.

The challenges of open enrollment season

HR professionals face several significant challenges during the open enrollment period. If you’re an HR team leader, this might feel familiar, but if you don’t know as much about the inner workings of HR, you may not realize the scope of open enrollment and what it brings.

One of the greatest challenges revolves around benefits navigation. Many companies offer a wide array of benefits, including health insurance, dental, vision, retirement plans, and more. HR professionals must navigate through the complexity of these offerings, ensuring that employees understand their choices and can make informed decisions.

It's essential to effectively communicate benefits options to employees. This is a highly personal and complex topic, so HR professionals must create materials, conduct informational sessions, and answer employee questions to ensure that everyone understands their choices.

Your employees are the greatest asset your organization has. It’s extremely important to take care of them, and your HR team is on the frontline of that experience.

Making it easier for your HR staff to assist employees during open enrollment demonstrates your commitment to employee wellbeing.

The HR administrative burden

While your employees may think HR is just an employee-facing position, there is an enormous amount of backend labor that HR staff handles. HR teams must stay up-to-date with constantly changing laws and regulations related to benefits and healthcare.

Ensuring that the company's benefits packages comply with federal, state, and local regulations can be a complex and time-consuming task. The open enrollment period creates a peak in HR workload, leading to long hours, tight schedules, and potential burnout.

The open enrollment period also creates challenges for interacting with other departments. It's essential that HR leaders know how to communicate with people from multiple backgrounds with various communication styles. For example, HR teams often work closely with finance departments to manage benefits costs. Striking a balance between offering competitive benefits and managing expenses can be tricky, so preparing for these conversations beforehand can ease a lot of stress.

When selecting employee benefits, HR teams also need resources with data they can count on. At Navigate, each of our clients works with a dedicated account manager to help them access and interpret the employee wellbeing information they need when they need it.

Promoting mental wellbeing in HR teams

With all this in mind, how can your company enhance the employee experience and support the mental wellbeing of your HR team? By creating a supportive environment and making the challenging aspects of their job as streamlined as possible.

There’s no easy cure for burnout, but these strategies can help your HR team take on the busy season with more resiliency.

1. Encourage and support a growth mindset

A lot goes into managing an employee wellbeing or employee benefits strategy. And while it’s great to consider yourself and your team experts, it’s also important to admit when you have more to learn.

By encouraging employees to approach problems with a growth mindset, HR professionals are empowered to learn, grow, and yes—even make mistakes.

An expert is someone who has stopped thinking. Why should he think? He already knows.

By allowing HR staff the freedom to learn, companies can encourage more psychological safety at work and help relieve some of the pressure that comes with open enrollment season. It also encourages HR teams to expand their skill sets, so they are more prepared for the challenges of the busy season.

2. Build a culture of wellbeing beyond the busy season

Open enrollment shouldn’t be the only time your company focuses on employee wellbeing. If you want to support your HR team, build wellbeing into your organization’s policies and culture.

This may mean offering flex time or work-from-home options, providing accommodations for mental health, and making it known that it’s acceptable to take mental health days.

Just offering mental healthcare benefits isn’t enough. According to a study by Mental Health America, over half of US adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment. That means over 27 million people are going without essential care.

Their study cited that, “Although adults who did not have insurance coverage were significantly less likely to receive treatment than those who did, 54% of people covered by health insurance still did not receive mental health treatment, indicating that ensuring coverage is not the same as ensuring access to mental health care.”

If your employees aren’t using their mental health benefits, it could be due to social determinants or the stigma surrounding mental health care. Be loud and proud about your mental health benefits year-round—especially during the busy season.

3. Offer personalized options

No two people have the same mental health and wellbeing needs, and your organization’s approach to HR’s wellbeing shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. Instead, try to create personalized opportunities so you can offer more applicable solutions for each employee.

This also extends beyond benefits to your company culture. For example, setting reasonable expectations for work hours and building as much flexibility into the schedule as possible. Make sure each HR team member’s roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and that your team understands their limits.

Make it easy for them to know when to seek assistance or escalate issues, and also make sure that your higher-level HR staff is receptive to giving assistance or taking over after escalation. This prevents undue stress from attempting to handle issues beyond their purview.

Instead of feeling like an obligation, this personal approach makes workplace wellbeing feel like an important part of your organization’s culture.

4. Staff management and training

Supportive staff management greatly improves the employee experience during busy times. Monitor and manage the workload of HR teams, especially during peak periods like open enrollment. Consider temporary staffing or redistributing tasks to prevent overburdening.

You should also work with your upper-level HR staff to ensure that they are well-trained. By equipping HR leaders with wellbeing and conflict resolution training, uncomfortable employee situations are less stressful and resolved faster.

Another training your HR team should undergo is stress management training. Let them take time at work to practice techniques that help them cope with the pressures of their roles effectively. This can include mindfulness exercises, meditation, or deep breathing techniques.

Good staff management promotes a supportive team environment where HR colleagues can openly discuss challenges, share experiences, and provide emotional support to one another. Regular team meetings can provide a platform for such discussions—and can certainly help by providing a little break from dealing with everybody else’s problems during the workday.

Looking for more ways to help your employees be well? Check out how you can detect and prevent employee burnout.

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