17 July 2019

Out Of The Office But Still On The Job

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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 today."

"What 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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