Focus on the Mobile Workforce: Aetna Leads the Way in Telecommuting

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When you hear the term “telework,” you may think of small technology start-ups:  young adults fresh out of college, wearing flip-flops while coding software.  You may not think about a Fortune 100 company, founded in 1853, with an annual revenue of nearly $35 billion that employs over 35,000 people. Though Aetna is one of the nation’s largest insurance companies and has been publicly traded since the 19th Century, they are one of the most modern corporations around, leading the telecommuting trend.

Telecommuting allows employees to work effectively from anywhere, like your home, an airport or a coffee shop.  Aetna first hit on the idea of encouraging employees to work remotely as a solution to the difficulties of moving or merging offices.

“Our telework program started as a grassroots initiative to keep talented employees when there were site consolidations,” said Aetna Telework Program Head Eileen Lavin.  While the teleworking program was originally intended to keep efficiency high during periods of real-estate transition, Aetna quickly found that the benefits were far more wide reaching than they had originally imagined.

The program became a huge hit.  Although Aetna is careful about transitioning jobs off-site (they perform a battery of evaluations before allowing a position to be remote) the company now allows all types of work to be performed by teleworkers.  According to a recent article published in the Chicago Tribune, 40 percent of Aetna’s employees now telecommute –up from 27 percent just a couple years ago.

Many traditionalist companies have not yet accepted the idea that teleworking is just as productive and efficient (if not more so) as working in one’s office. Many wonder why one of the country’s largest and oldest corporations has become such an outspoken proponent for this concept.  But Bob Rodgers, a senior program manager at Aetna, believes the company’s program makes perfect sense.

“They really enjoy it,” he said of employees who work from home. “They appreciate the fact that they have that flexibility, and they maintain their performance because they want to be able to continue that.”

At Aetna, teleworking is rapidly becoming the status quo because it makes so much sense.  Not only does it reduce the costs of overhead, but employee evaluations have shown that home-based workers are more efficient than their cubicle-shackled peers.  Communications does not suffer, because modern telecommunication technology makes it easier than ever for managers to connect with team members instantaneously.  Even in the office, Rodgers said, most communication takes place electronically.

The simple fact is that teleworking offers businesses an amazing opportunity for higher efficiency and employee satisfaction with virtually no drawbacks.  Even a company that predates the Lincoln administration is taking advantage of this technology.

Want to learn more about teleworking? Check out some of our recent blog posts.

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