Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid gets to grips with online meetings

I am about ready to throw something at someone; only there is no one here because I am working at home. Most of the office is working from home just now. Big Bad Boss has scheduled weekly catch up calls so we don’t ‘lose touch’. I don’t know about losing touch but I am definitely losing it.

It was OK when we just had conference calls and the occasional head office webinar, but now he wants to use the new online meeting software so he can actually ‘see we are all ok’. Well I do not want him, or anyone else, to see that I am still in my pyjamas and I have a big box of chocolates next to me. I do not really want him seeing the state of my flat either. It won’t look professional. So now, every Monday, before the team call, I have to shower and get dressed properly from the waist up. I also have to tidy everything that can be seen behind me, removing the wine bottle and crisps from the night before. The rest of the time, I keep a little sticky over my laptop camera. People think I am paranoid, but I know our IT team and I can well imagine what they get up to in their spare time.

Big Bad Boss turns up to our calls in a work shirt. I wonder if, like me, he is only smart from the waist up. I am trying not to remember seeing him in his Lycra cycling shorts, but it’ is one of those things you just cannot unsee.

Induction meetings

He asks me to co-ordinate some online induction meetings for some new hires, taking them through our benefits package. So now, not only do I have to let my boss and work colleagues see my living room, but they want me to show it to a bunch of strangers as well. Great. I wonder why an earth we are hiring more people at this time of furloughing staff and voluntary pay cuts, but there is no logic coming from the Higher Beings in our management at the best of times.

I already have a benefits introduction slide deck so I don’t have to do too much preparation, but I do want to familiarise myself with hosting on the new meeting software as the application has been changed recently. I arrange to call my colleague Lazy Susan for a trial run.  The appointed time arrives, and Susan is not on the call. Typical.

After a long wait I text her mobile. Are you joining the call to help me test the new system? She replies to say that she is but she cannot find the link. I emailed it to you along with the number and code. Which email did I send it to? Her work email, obviously. I’ve also copied the link in a text. She finds the email but the link does not work. She texts to say that she has typed in the ID number I gave but it wants a code too. Gritting my teeth, I text the code once again. Eventually, Lazy Susan appears on screen wearing a face pack. She has no concerns about appearing professional. She explains she is treating this working-from-home period as a spa retreat. No change there then.

With all the going back and forth getting hooked up, half an hour has passed. If I am to do this with a small group of new recruits, I can see I am going to need a lot more time. I also need to figure out how to switch between the slide deck and the speaker view. While I work that out and practice going through the slides, I put Lazy Susan on mute because she has some irritating music playing in the background. If only I could do that in the office.

Benefits Q&A

Still pretending she is my audience, I unmute her and ask if she has any questions. Getting into role, she asks several questions about the health plan, such as how to make a claim and what is included in the cover? She wants to know if there is a limit on claims and what the exclusions are? She also asks about pension contributions, pretending not to follow the bit about tax relief on contributions. She asks a number of questions about the lifestyle default slide, wanting to know how they know what funds to invest in at different stages. She even digs into the fee slide wanting to know why certain funds attract a higher management fee. I am quite worn out. I have allowed ten minutes for questions, but I am going to need much longer. I also decide to prepare some frequently asked questions and answers based on the things Lazy Susan raised.

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This practice session has been a really useful exercise. I have to hand it to Susan; she was really great at the role-play. Has she ever considered going into acting? Those questions about the benefit plans sounded really genuine, almost like she didn’t know the answers. Lazy Susan tilts her head at me, miming someone perplexed, and I realise the unfortunate truth. Despite years now on the benefits team, she knows practically nothing about our plans. Scary. And what is worse is that she gets away with it. As I kick off the first online induction programme, and it takes half an hour to get everyone logged in properly, despite my detailed instructions, I am disheartened to realise that we have just hired a few more like Lazy Susan.

Next time… Candid looks at pay reviews.