Aetna rethinks telecommute policy, plans to cut jobs

Aetna, which has long touted its employee-friendly moves, is now looking to both dial back its liberal telecommuting policy and trim its workforce.

The Connecticut-based insurer says on its website that more than 43 percent of its employees now telecommute. But Aetna now will start to require more of them to work in the office, starting with all managers who work within 50 miles of one of its locations, the Hartford Courant reports.

An Aetna spokesman said the insurer was making the move “with the goal of increasing collaboration and driving innovation,” but declined to provide further details, the article notes.

Aetna is not the only company to rethink its support of telecommuting, Wayne Turmel, co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute, told the Courant. Though employees who work from home can be more productive, they also tend to collaborate less with colleagues, he noted.

To reduce operating costs, Aetna also will turn to layoffs and offer voluntary early retirement packages to an unspecified number of employees, according to the article. The move is primarily due to Aetna’s decision to reduce its footprint on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, which sent shock waves through the industry in the wake of a similar pullback from UnitedHealth and Bertolini’s vocal support of the exchanges.

Aetna has made a point of enacting policies to benefit employee wellness, including providing them with a financial reward to get enough sleep and offering free yoga and meditation classes. More recently, the company announced plans to cover the cost of Apple Watches for its 50,000 employees as part of its wellness program.

Bertolini has said his own healthcare experiences have driven this focus on wellness. His son’s cancer fight and a personal ski accident led him to retool the company’s Compassionate Care program for patients with advanced illnesses and embrace alternative medicine, FierceHealthPayer has reported.