Aetna Inc. AET worried about losing talent when it closed
some offices after acquiring U.S. Healthcare Inc. in 1996. So it decided to let
some employees work from home. Ten years later, only 9% of the insurers'
employees worked from home full time.
Sometime in the mid-2000s, though, the insurer began to see
working from home as more than a favor to employees. "There was a point where
we realized that there was an opportunity to drive down costs, particularly
real-estate costs," said Elease Wright, senior vice president for human
resources, who works at Aetna's Hartford, Conn., headquarters.
Today, nearly half—47%—of Aetna's 35,000 U.S. employees work
from home. We aren't talking about checking email after dinner or working from
home on Fridays. We're talking staying home every day: no desk, no cubicle, no
computer in an office somewhere.
Dan DeLucia, a vice president in the Aetna unit that
negotiates pacts with doctors and hospitals, has been working from his
Syracuse, N.Y., home for nine years. "At first I was hesitant," he
said. "I was concerned about how you manage from afar. We didn't have
instant messaging. We didn't have video capabilities up to the speed we have
I learned very quickly was that I actually spoke more and communicated
more…than when I was face-to-face in an office," he added, recalling the
old days when he exchanged emails with colleagues two cubicles away.
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