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What workers want this open enrollment season

No surprise, the pandemic (and the Delta variant) are top factors in the benefits employees want in 2021, according to a new survey from Haven Life

Open enrollment and global pandemics — if there are two more enjoyable conversation starters out there, we can’t think of them.

Ok, that’s not quite true, but they’re indisputably important, and they’re impacting each other again this year. Way back in 2020, the COVID pandemic was still relatively new, and hopes were high that vaccinations and herd immunity would help get us through it all. Here in 2021, pandemic life no longer feels unfamiliar, and the reality check known as the Delta variant (not to mention disappointingly high rates of vaccine hesitancy) ensures we’ll only get more used to it in the months to come.

Take it all together, and it’s no surprise that, in a recent Haven Life survey, 71% of workers stated concerns about the variant. On top of that, 45% of those surveyed said the variant would impact their benefit selections this year. (Given this survey took place when the variant was still getting started in the US, it’s likely those figures would be even higher now.)

So what specifically do employees want from their employers, in terms of benefits and in terms of the open enrollment process? And if you’re in position to change the open enrollment and benefits policies at your workplace, what do you need to know? Our survey results will show you the way.

In this article:

Workers want more

In the Haven Life survey, 14% of employees said they plan to purchase more coverage this season, compared with their pre-pandemic coverage selected in 2019. (Similarly, 13% plan to purchase more this season when compared with their mid-pandemic coverage selected in 2020.) That might not sound like a lot, but consider that most people already get as much coverage as they think they need, and it’s compelling that so many people want even more this year.

Workers want mental health and financial wellness benefits

Suffice it to say the past 17 months or so has taken a huge toll on our mental and financial health. No wonder, then, that a whopping 74% of respondents said mental health considerations are a factor in their benefits planning. What specifically do they have in mind (so to speak)? Here’s what they said would benefit their mental health:

In a competitive labor market — one with a record 10 million open jobs — employers would be wise to focus on offering these types of benefits to current and prospective employees.

Workers want clarity

It’s hard to know what you want if you don’t know what your options are. Given that nearly two-thirds of employees (65%) say they rely on their HR team to get this kind of info, it’s concerning that most workers (51%) say they don’t or only “somewhat” understand their benefits offerings, how to enroll, or what’s covered.

The takeaway for employees? Never hesitate to ask for additional clarity. Indeed, doing so might just help your fellow workers as well. And clearly, companies need to be more, well, clear, when explaining benefits options to their workers.

Workers want affordability

While this is hardly surprising — who wants to pay more for anything, let alone something as potentially expensive as your benefits? — it’s still worth noting that while 45% of workers surveyed said they should spend less than 10% off their paycheck on benefits, 59% said they currently do spend more than that amount.

This is largely out of control for employees, but again, anything an employer can do to help reduce their employees’ out-of-pocket costs would make their workplace more attractive to those who do (or might) work there.

Most workers (51%) say they don’t or only “somewhat” understand their benefits offerings, how to enroll, or what’s covered.

Workers want what they want — nothing more, nothing less

While no one wants to deal with the hassle of wading through irrelevant benefits options, more than one-third of respondents (37%) said their company offers too few benefits. This means that while three-quarters of respondents expect to have roughly the same options they had last year, those respondents hope for an expanded menu of options. (Presumably, this would include some of the added mental and financial health benefits mentioned above.)

Workers want salary protection…

Ok, they didn’t phrase it exactly that way. But 42% of workers surveyed said they would enjoy greater peace of mind if they knew that, in the event of something unexpected, their loved ones would receive a recurring payment equal to their monthly paycheck for a defined period of time — and that this would put them more at ease than a traditional one-time life insurance payout.

Good news: There’s something exactly like that, and it’s called Salary Protection, and Haven Life started offering it to employers last fall. It requires no medical exam, and pays the beneficiary an amount equal to the policyholder’s paycheck for a minimum of five years if the unexpected happens. If you or your company might be interested, you can learn more about it here.

Want to offer Salary Protection to your employees? Email Wade Seward or JR Hernandez from our Haven Life partnership team.

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About Louis Wilson

Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children.

Read more by Louis Wilson

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit:

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