Tuesday, July 29, 2014 · 4:53 p.m.
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BCBST's telecommuting program has grown in the past four years and now has more than 1,000 participants. (Photo: Staff)

About four years ago, when local BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee employees consolidated from 14 buildings into two—with the main campus atop Cameron Hill—some workers got the opportunity to work from home.

BCBST leaders have organized a telecommuting program that, four years in, has 1,068 full-time employees who work remotely.

Telecommuting program 

BCBST leaders work with other leaders nationwide to create a strong telecommuting program. 

Leaders will also soon present best practices as a conference. 

"We've got a work group we've put together with other BlueCross plans, benchmarking with them to make sure our plan is advanced. We meet on a quarterly basis," Jennifer Shields, telecommuting consultant with BCBST, said. 

That group is defined as people who work from home three days a week or more.

“Former CEO Vicky Gregg—she was always a strong believer in having a flexible work environment,” Jeff Wakefield, director of technical and administrative services for human resources, said. “She was instrumental [in starting] the program.”

During construction of the Cameron Hill location, the company grew, and leaders realized there wouldn’t be enough room for everyone.

They initially targeted about 400 employees for telecommuting, and it has grown from there.

Offering the possibility of working from home is not only a cost-saver with environmental benefits, it also has the potential to attract and retain employees, according to Nooga.com archives.

And a 2012 Wakefield Research Study, commissioned by Citrix, found that 64 percent of people would give up a pleasure—such as drinking alcohol—to be able to work from home once a week, according to archives.

But, for BCBST employees, working from home doesn’t mean they are working from laptops, sitting in bed in their pajamas or pulling double-duty watching their children.

Employees must sign a contract agreeing not to provide at-home day care while working from home. They must be at their workstations—which BCBST leaders make as much like a regular office as possible—during the required hours.

Leaders can monitor at-home workers’ activities, and anyone working from home must have the appropriate bandwidth to support the needed computer systems.

About 200 of them work out of the state, as far away as Alaska, he also said.

“It has grown beyond what we thought it could be,” he said.

Nurses, case managers, social workers and management in those areas, as well as claims and customer service employees, are the largest groups of employees that work from home.

Jennifer Shields, telecommuting consultant with BCBST, said she has worked with some people who feel isolated working at home, but leaders use tools, such as an instant messenger, to help them stay connected.

Wakefield said that the telecommuters are some of the most dedicated employees.

“Our most engaged worker is our telecommuter,” he said. “I think they would take extra measures to prevent coming back to work.”

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