Staff photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Mar 3, 2011 -- The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee in Chattanooga, Tenn., campus is environmentally designed with glass windows that allow sunlight to warm the building, cutting down on heating costs. In the center of the building is courtyard with tables and a fountain for employees to enjoy. Gardens and walking trails are scattered throughout the campus.

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On a typical workday at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, thousands of workers drive to the downtown Chattanooga headquarters to do their work for Tennessee's biggest health insurer.

But starting Monday, most of the more than 6,000 BlueCross employees in Tennessee will do their work at home under a new work-at-home policy designed to limit the potential spread of the coronavirus.

"We're transitioning virtually all of our employees across all locations to work from home from Monday, March 16, through Monday, March 30," said John Hawbaker, a spokesman for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. "By distributing the majority of our workforce for this period, we're reducing our collective risk exposure within our facilities, our BlueCross families and our communities."

With local schools and universities shut down or moving to online courses this week amid growing fears over the coronavirus pandemic, major Chattanooga employers are allowing, and in some instances mandating, that employees telework from their homes.

Unum spokesperson Kelly Spencer said the Chattanooga-based insurance giant plans to soon announce additional telework options to shift more work to home environments and to limit potential exposure of the virus for employees in the company's new open office environment. Unum, the world's biggest disability insurer with about 2,600 employees in Chattanooga, already has about 60% of its customer contact center employees working remotely.

Spencer said on Friday Unum restricted all business travel for employees, as well as in-person meetings of more than 25 people.

At the headquarters of Chattanooga's biggest trucking company, U.S. Xpress Enterprises activated last week a temporary telecommuting policy to allow much of its Chattanooga staff to work at home.

"Although all employees are important to our success, we've identified roles that are key to our day-to-day efforts to support our drivers and customers across the country," company spokeswoman Mary Danielson said.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke urged companies Friday to allow more telework to keep more employees at home and away from other people at work who might spread the virus. The human resources office for the nation's biggest employer, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for the federal government, says agencies must now incorporate telework as part of their "continuity of operations" plans, although plans at each agency vary.

Even before the coronavirus hit, Global Workplace Analytics estimated more than 5 million employees, or 3.6% of America's workforce, regularly work at home at least half of their workday. The number of people who regularly work from home has grown 173% since 2005.

Contact Dave Flessner at or 423-757-6340.


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