Part 1: Finding our way in uncertain times

Jan Burnham
March 29, 2020

Help for benefits teams

Checking in this week with Ellen Kelsay, leader at Business Group on Health, where member companies have been reaching out to the organization with their coronavirus concerns and responses since late January, 2020.

A chat with Ellen Kelsay, BGH leader.

"HR is really taking a lead on so many key issues right now,” Ellen told me during our virtual coffee. She is seeing firsthand how health benefit leaders are providing support and resources for their employees around the world – contending with testing availability to Rx supply chain concerns. “We’re seeing waves of what employers are most acutely focused on with new challenges and opportunities emerging weekly, if not daily."

What does she see emerging right now? Some of the most common:

  • Craving for normalcy – The speed and scale of change has left employees craving a return to routine and certainty, yet a return to routine is still a long way off. Supporting employees with behavioral health and other resources have become especially critical.
  • Tremendous flexibility and compassion – Benefit teams report high levels of flexibility and understanding among leaders as stressed employees cope with unprecedented demands. “So many companies are saying do what you can, when you can.”
  • Demand overtaking supply  of telemedicine resources – As more and more people try telemedicine, often for the first time, some benefit teams are reporting long hold times and other volume issues. Health plans and telehealth providers are working quickly to add capacity.
  • Benefit continuity anxiety – With the uncertainty of the situation, both from a public health and economic perspective, many employers are addressing concerns related to coverage, work-from-home, leave, pay continuation, behavioral health resources and financial well-being.
  • Caregiving challenges – Caregiving realities are hitting us all hard. Pregnant women face the possibilities of giving birth without their partner’s support in the labor room. Heartbreakingly, visitors may not be allowed in many hospice and ICU settings.
“People are realizing they can’t provide support in ways they used to, and that creates yet another emotional hardship on them, as well as their loved one.” Ellen said.

Next up this week: Tips for communicators

Jan Burnham
Jan Burnham
Founder & CEO
Founder and CEO of ROC Group, Jan Burnham, has specialized in employee communications throughout her career, focusing on change communication and complex human resources issues. A speaker and author, Jan is the architect of ROC's communication approach, organizing key learnings about how to make messages stick.