Yes No Checkbox One in five ofall of the respondents – men and women – say they spend only a fewminutes reviewing benefits offered by their employer before makinga decision. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Employers can offer a plethora ofbenefit offerings, but when workers don't understand the benefit ofcertain benefits, the open enrollment process can be a nightmare,according to an employee survey sponsored by MetLife Inc.

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Indeed, a third of the 1,004 adults polled by marketing researchfirm Engine on behalf of Metlife say they would rather talk abouttheir weight than their employee benefits. Moreover, nearly half(45 percent) of the respondents dread the benefits enrollmentprocess as much as asking for a raise — only marginally less thanthey dread renewing their driver's license or passport.

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Related: Lack of benefits understanding brings low morale,high turnover

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Drilling down further, 58 percent of Gen X women who respondedto the survey say the benefits election process is one of thethings they most dread doing. Among all of the women respondents,26 percent are more likely to bring up their mental health withfriends than discuss their finances or their employee benefits.

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Dreading the process results in hurrying through it as fast aspossible, according to the survey. One in five of all of therespondents – men and women – say they spend only a few minutesreviewing benefits offered by their employer before making adecision.

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This is likely due to the fact that many employees are stillstruggling to understand what each benefit actually covers, thesurvey found. Respondents were quizzed about the particulars oftraditional benefits including health plans, life insurance anddisability insurance, supplemental plans such as critical illnessinsurance and accident insurance, or alternative benefit offeringslike legal plans and employee auto and home insurancediscounts.

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Their answers reflect a knowledge gap: nearly a third of therespondents chose "I don't know" when asked whether disabilityinsurance could be used if you have a mental or emotional illnessand are unable to work, while one in five chose only "funeralexpenses" as a reason to buy life insurance.

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"Employees have the unique opportunity to leverage a growingnumber of benefits from their employers — benefits that arespecifically tailored to their needs and the needs of theirfamilies," says Meredith Ryan-Reid, MetLife's senior vicepresident, group benefits. "But first, they need to be armed with abetter understanding of how these employer-offered benefits canplay a central role in protecting them against the unexpected andhelping them achieve their short- and long-term financialgoals."

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While employees can learn more about the benefit of each benefitoffering by talking with friends, family and colleagues, employerscan more effectively bridge the knowledge gap by giving theirworkers more tools, Ryan-Reid says. She points to Metlife'swebsite, which contains resources, including videos, articlesand the Make Your Match tool, which offers tailored benefitsuggestions.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.