1 in 3 workers plan to boost benefits during open enrollment

Pandemic changes employees’ attitudes and behaviors toward insurance


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Nov. 17, 2020) — This open enrollment season is unlike others, according to new research from employee benefits provider Unum (NYSE: UNM). Workers plan to spend more time reviewing their options, choose new insurance benefits, and increase their coverage due to COVID-19.

“Choosing your benefits is one of the most important financial decisions you’ll make this year,” said Rob Hecker, vice president of Global Total Rewards at Unum. “Today’s pandemic reminds us we need to be prepared for life’s unexpected health events.”

Unum’s research among 1,500 full-time U.S. workers in October 2020 found new trends due to this year’s pandemic.

  • More than 1 in 3 workers (36%) plan to enroll in different benefits this year.
  • 2 in 3 workers (64%) plan to pay more attention to their employee benefits and spend more time reviewing and understanding them.
  • Workers plan to enroll for the first time or increase their coverage in life insurance (27%), hospital insurance (14%), short- and long-term disability insurance (12%), and critical illness coverage (12%).
  • Nearly 3 out of 5 workers (57%) report financial stress or hardship.
  • 57% of U.S. workers worry about their mental health.

Enrollment goes virtual

More employers are offering virtual benefits education this year. According to 400 companies surveyed in June, 42% will offer virtual video conferencing or co-browsing with a benefits counselor, up from 23% last year. In-person meetings with benefits counselors will drop from 49% in 2019 to 33% in 2020.

“Virtual live video counseling can be highly effective and engaging just like in-person benefits counseling, while also keeping everyone safe and overcoming barriers of distance,” said Richard Shaffer, vice president of Field and Market Development at Colonial Life—a provider with more than 10 years’ experience managing virtual enrollments. “You can freely discuss your finances or health from your home and include your partner or spouse in the conversation.”

High deductible health plans still popular

More than half of workers (53%) said they are likely to enroll in a high deductible health plan. This is despite 3 out of 5 workers reporting financial stress or hardship, and 45% agreeing they found it hard to pay for out-of-pocket medical costs not covered by insurance.

Social media beats benefits

Despite allotting more time to open enrollment than previous years, 9 out of 10 workers (88%) will spend 60 minutes or less reviewing their benefits before signing up. That’s half the amount of time they’ll spend browsing social media in one day.[1]

Break down your benefits

Download Unum’s Annual Enrollment Guide for an overview of common workplace benefits. You’ll find clear definitions on common coverage, tips for evaluating what you may need depending on your unique situation, and information on who pays for these benefits—you, your employer, or a combination.


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[1] Statista “Social media: Global daily usage 2019, by region” (2019)

About Unum Group

Unum (NYSE: UNM), an international provider of workplace benefits and services, has been helping workers and their families for more than 170 years. Through its Unum and Colonial Life brands, the company offers disability, life, accident, critical illness, dental, vision and stop-loss insurance; leave and absence management support and behavioral health services. In 2021, Unum reported revenues of $12.0 billion and paid $8.2 billion in benefits. The Fortune 500 company is one of the 2022 World’s Most Ethical Companies, recognized by Ethisphere®.


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