Home work: Coronavirus propels telework trend

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In late January, just weeks after China first acknowledged the growing presence of the coronavirus, J.D. Hickey urged the senior staff at Tennessee's biggest health insurer to begin thinking about how to prepare for a possible pandemic should the virus expand to the United States.

By early March, when the COVID-19 virus began claiming lives in the United States, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee had begun to prepare to staff and respond to the threat of the virus in the Volunteer State. The Chattanooga-based health insurer, which had about 1,100 of its nearly 6,800 workers doing their jobs from home in early March, quickly revamped its work approach to boost its share of workers teleworking up to 96% of the workforce.

In 13 days, BlueCross distributed 3,700 computer terminals and other support equipment for employees to work from home, and only about 235 were left doing their jobs in the company's headquarters atop Cameron Hill this spring.