The Situation: How COVID is Changing the Way We Work
The unprecedented circumstances surrounding COVID-19 heightened the need for clear and compassionate employee communications. As workers quickly transitioned from a "typical" workday to some juggling remote work and wondering what returning to work would be like in the "new normal", many have turned to their employers for clarity about what comes next.
When COVID-19 began its rapid spread, it brought with it a wave of uncertainty and unexpected changes for employees. Our client, a leading global specialty chemical manufacturing and performance materials company, recognized the toll the pandemic could take on its employees' well-being right away. During this time, they observed a noticeable decline in Employee Assistance Program (EAP) activities in Q1 (down 33% from Q1 2019) and participation in their Well-Being program was pacing behind 2019 metrics.
We created communications that highlighted the benefits, resources and support services available to help U.S. employees and their families with the “new normal” surrounding the pandemic. These COVID-19-focused communications included two targeted pieces – one related to physical and emotional wellness and another to support their financial well-being. We also expedited the release of their first comprehensive well-being guide. Additionally, signage was developed to help streamline and reinforce safety protocols and standards for their return to work.
We saw an increase in employee engagement, kept the momentum going in their Well-Being program and employees took advantage of Flexible Spending Account (FSA) benefit changes.
The Approach: COVID-19-Based Communications
Physical, Emotional, Social and Community Well-Being Communications
- Utilization of the company’s EAP and Well-Being program participation decreased and with the pandemic their energy and efforts were being directed to more basic needs like homeschooling, childcare, urgent health issues and balancing it all with working from home.
- Depending on an employee’s living situation (roommates, children, spouses, etc.), some employees lost access to private settings for confidential video or phone conversations – the rate of telehealth and teletherapy sessions could decline.
Postcard: You Matter and We are Here for You!
A two-sided postcard was mailed to employees’ homes with reminders regarding the benefits, support services and guidance employees could access to prioritize their health and well-being in a safe and socially-distant way.
- Employees were encouraged to:
- Register in Cigna-based offerings like MDLIVE Virtual Care and Amwell Online Health Services which was the first step if they needed to seek support.
- Download and access the mental health and wellness app Happify.
- Review LifeWorks resources, which provided videos, podcasts, articles, webinars and toolkits, particularly a COVID-19 Toolkit to help obtain more information on the virus, symptoms, spread and prevention.
- Some simple tips featured on the postcard:
- Focus on sleep – counteract daily stress
- Eat healthy – keep your immune system strong
- Be mindful – release tension and overcome anxiety and depression
- Take breaks from the news – limit what comes into your head space
- Add movement to your day – feel better
- Practice social distancing – 6 feet is recommended
- Avoid isolation – stay in touch via phone and computer
Guide: Your Well-Being Guide to a Healthier You
Following the postcard, a 16-page comprehensive well-being guide was mailed home and posted on the Benefits site. This new resource was expedited to share the Company’s expanded You Matter Well-Being program – a 4-prong approach to support all aspects of their employees’ well-being – Emotional, Physical, Financial and It referenced all available health and wellness benefits, resources and support.
A 2-sided tear-off flap featured:
- The Top 10 Ways to be the Healthiest “You” Can Be.
- A color-coded contact card of all key providers
- Emotional Wellness – Stamping Out the Stigma
- LifeWorks employee assistance to help with stress
- Free face-to-face teletherapy sessions
- Tips for practicing mindfulness
- Access to the myStrength app for mental wellness
- Physical Health – Adopting Healthy Habits
- Information on preventative care services
- Tips for maximizing sleep quality and maintaining healthy habits
- Telemedicine contact information
- Cancer support resources
- Weight loss and energy tips
- Financial Fitness – Helping Your Wallet
- LifeWorks Financial Assistance programs
- Vanguard financial counseling
- The Financial Finesse COVID-19 Financial Survival Kit
- MetLife Legal help
- Academic coaching
- Identity theft protection
- Information around maximizing Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
- Social Outreach – Building Community Together
- The benefits of volunteering and building community
- Bright Horizons Back-Up Care
- Bright Horizons World at Home
- Emotional Wellness – Stamping Out the Stigma
Financial Wellness Communications
- Employees may not be aware of, or be confused by, the CARES Act changes that would allow them to further maximize their HSA and FSA – the extension of the pre-tax contribution window and filing for reimbursement, as well as the expanded list of drugs now eligible for reimbursement.
- Financial stress impacts their employees’ overall well-being and this information could help them take further advantage of pre-tax savings.
Postcard: New Benefits Flexibility – Help Your Wallet and Health
This targeted mailing was created and sent to Flexible Spending and Health Savings Accounts participants. It made the complicated CARES Act legislation easier to understand, directed employees where to go to get more information and how to take action.
The two-sided postcard highlighted the flexibility and options now available to support their health and get the most out of the money they earn, including details about:
- New medications (over 19,000) now eligible for reimbursement and a web address that offered easy online ordering
- Contribution changes now allowed to Dependent Care FSA contributions to avoid penalties associated with “use-it-or-lose-it”
- 2019 and 2020 changes to HSA-Compatible accounts and Health Care FSA, including increasing or decreasing contributions
- HSA contribution flexibility
Return to Work Signage
- Key to the health and safety of the Company’s employees and their families, they needed return to work signage that supported their new Critical Expectations protocol and reinforced the need to work together to ensure strict adherence.
- With unique needs and differing reopen dates across its U.S. locations, the Company required a streamlined approach to create and produce signage and fulfillment of the orders to meet each location’s needs.
Critical Expectation Signage
- The signs were designed to help all employees, contractors and visitors adhere to the Company’s Critical Expectations and work together to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
- An interactive form was created, and the production, fulfillment and shipping were managed to ensure needs and deadlines were met.
- The following Critical Expectation signage was created:
- Floor decals as well as directional stair decals to streamline foot traffic and ensure adequate social distancing.
- Large employee appreciation posters and Lucite frame inserts thanking workers for their commitment to health and safety with guidelines for self-diagnosis, physical distancing, personal hygiene and face covering.
- Small and large posters featuring health, safety and sanitization guidelines for the break room and areas that required masks and restrooms and offices.
- Small decals for bathrooms to reinforce hand washing best practices and entry door decals to ensure mask requirement was followed.
- Creative assets were also provided to locations outside the U.S. to translate and produce Critical Expectation signage to support COVID-19 health and safety globally.
- Telehealth utilization through May 2020 has reached 79% of 2019’s total.
- EAP engagement:
- Website average monthly page views were 3.6 times higher in April and May than in Q1.
- Total activities (i.e. video views, downloads) were also 3.6 times higher in May/June.
- In the month following the release of the new Well-Being guide, there was a 20% increase in those who completed 4 activities to qualify for a 2021 premium discount.
- To date, 85% of Flexible Spending Account participants who inquired about making changes received help and took action.
In addition to a well-executed communications strategy which included other touchpoints implemented by the U.S. Benefits team, senior management led by example – downloading well-being apps during calls and supporting Mental Health month in May.
The Global Benefits Manager stated, “With the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, it was critical that we modified our workflow to meet the needs of our employees, their families and the Company. Our partnership with Spitfire allowed us to seamlessly change our communications strategy. As a result, according to feedback from our President and CEO, we succeeded in creating responsive, timely and effective communications with helpful resources that reinforced our commitment to caring for our people – both at work and beyond the workplace.”