BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee rated among best US employers after shifting most workers out of the office

Staff Photo / BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee employees Kathy Wolfe, left, and Diane Owens enjoy lunch in 2011 in the cafe next to the courtyard in the center of the company's campus in Chattanooga. Most of the campus is now vacant after the company switched most employees to at-home work — and employee surveys show most workers like the change.

Tennessee's biggest health insurer is also rated as the best major employer in the state, according to a new listing of America's 500 best large employers by Forbes magazine.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, which has shifted to a "remote first" work approach with 86% of its 6,350 employees now doing their jobs from their own homes, was rated as the fourth-best employer in the country, according to employee surveys conducted for Forbes by the market research firm Statista. The Chattanooga-based health insurer was rated by its workers as the best employer anywhere outside of a few education and health care employers.

The Tennessee BlueCross company, which is also Chattanooga's biggest private employer with nearly 4,600 local employees, has been on the Forbes list of the best major employers six times since 2016. This year's rating was one of the best ever for a Tennessee employer and comes after the company shifted its computers and work stations to the homes of its workers to do most of the company's jobs.

"We believe we can only serve our members well when we serve our employees well, with a work experience built on mutual purpose, trust and respect, wherever our people work," Roy Vaughn, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at BlueCross, said in a statement Tuesday after Forbes released its annual list of best employers. "This achievement is a testament to the continuous efforts of people throughout our organization -- it's extraordinary to be recognized at this level."

BlueCross was the top-rated of three Tennessee employers on the Forbes list, well ahead of the state of Tennessee and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville ranked No. 218 and 219, respectively. Georgia had three major employers on the Forbes list -- the University of Georgia at No. 135, Georgia-Pacific at No. 232 and the state of Georgia at No. 319.

The 2023 ranking by Forbes is the highest-ever showing for BlueCross, with a placement well ahead of some of the world's most sought-after employers. The Chattanooga-based plan is the highest-ranked Tennessee organization and the highest-ranked insurance company on the 2023 list, as well as the first of three Blue plans to earn a listing.

  photo  Staff Photo / In the center of the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee campus in Chattanooga is a courtyard, as seen in 2011, for students and employees to enjoy. The $299 million corporate campus is largely vacant after the company shifted most employees to at-home work and found increased worker satisfaction.

The Forbes ratings have taken on extra importance amid the tight labor market.

"With U.S. unemployment rates historically low -- just 3.4% this January according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- workers can be more selective than ever in choosing their employer," Forbes Editor Alan Schwarz wrote in this month's magazine.

Vaughn said BlueCross has been able to expand its geographic reach for employees by allowing them to work from home most anywhere. BlueCross's internal employee ratings and productivity measures have improved since the company shifted primarily to a remote work employer following the outbreak of the pandemic three years ago.

So-called "office work" for most BlueCross workers has evolved into "homework" for all but the IT and executive staff and a few other key roles at the company, BlueCross officials said. Fourteen years after BlueCross erected its $299 million headquarters facility atop Cameron Hill, the 950,000-square-foot office complex is largely empty most days -- and workers say they like being able to avoid the daily trip to the office, company officials said.

Surveys of BlueCross workers last year found 96% of the employees think remote work is working for them, Vaughn said.

"We've made the switch fairly dramatically, and I think we have found a successful mode," he told the Chattanooga Rotary Club last year in a presentation about the company's work shift.

To compile the Forbes list, Statista surveyed more than 45,000 Americans working for businesses with 1,000 or more employees. Survey respondents were asked how likely they were to recommend their own employer to friends and family, as well as how they felt about other employers outside their industry.

Contact Dave Flessner at or 423-757-6340.