A new survey has found that remote workers have a more difficult time choosing benefit plans that are the right fit for them compared to their colleagues who work on-site or have hybrid remote-office schedules.

The poll by MetLife found that nearly half of remote workers struggle to understand their employee benefits. As a result, these workers may end up choosing plans that do not meet their needs and they may also spend more time on trying to choose their benefits.

The survey results also reflect the challenges that employers continue to face in meeting their employees’ increasingly diverse needs and that they need to improve their communications, particularly with staff who are working remotely full-time — and especially if they are in another state.

It’s crucial that employers get this right in light of the importance these workers place on their employer-sponsored benefits.

The survey of 1,000 full-time employees at companies with at least two employees found that 61% of workers said that employee benefits are a significant part of what’s keeping them at their company. Those figures were even higher for work-from-home caregivers with children (72%) and millennial and Gen Z workers (67%).

Widespread concern

There are a number of benefit issues that concern remote workers. The survey found that:

  • 45% of remote workers are struggling to understand their employee benefits, compared to 29% of their colleagues that work on-site.
  • 55% of remote workers are highly anxious about their finances, compared to 46% of hybrid and on-site workers.
  • 55% of telecommuters spend over one hour per week worrying about their benefits, compared to 37% of on-site and hybrid employees.

In fact, 65% of remote workers said that a better understanding of open enrollment would help make them feel more financially secure. That’s bad news for those employees, as their lack of knowledge can result in choosing the wrong plan, which may end up costing them more than necessary. As a result:

  • Remote workers are twice as likely to say they enrolled in the wrong type of benefits last year.
  • 57% of remote workers require more information to make the right benefit choices, compared to 47% of hybrid and on-site workers.

What you can do

Without clear communication, employees are less likely to understand and utilize their benefits.

Set up virtual information sessions where plan options, including key defining details and specific benefits, are outlined and covered clearly.

Depending on how many employees you have, you may want to consider offering a few sessions for them to choose from, to ensure they can all make it. If not, record the original session for employees to watch later if they can’t attend.

Also, you should make sure your human resources department is available for one-on-one questions. Some of your employees may need additional help in choosing a plan. You may want to consider offering phone or video chat meetings for them in case you need to show them documents and graphics.