'Blue' Employees' Work-at-Home Program Boosts Output/Job Satisfaction

It's cold.  You don't want to have to go outside, least of all go to work.  Maybe in the future you won't have to. That future is now for some Heartland employees.   They're phoning in their work, and staying where it's warm.  Mary Labrier's car sits in the drive-way...undisturbed since last week's snow, yet she hasn't missed one day of work. From her home in Jackson, Labrier used to drive to the Blue Cross Blue Shield processing center in Cape Girardeau.   Now she commutes to a downstairs office in her own home. "It's all the same processes.  I have all the same applicaitons, the software and everything is all the same, there's no difference being here, than if i was in the office in Cape," says the work-at-home mom. The Blue Cross Blue Shield pilot program Labrier's a part of, gives her all the tools:  a complete home office, computer, printer, high-speed data access, and plenty of communication with her superiors. "We talk almost daily through e-mail, or on the telephone, it's not really any different being here than it is in the office, except that you communicate more by e-mail, than on a face-to-face basis," says Labrier.  What's a typical day like?  "I get up, I get my children ready for school, my husband takes them, I come down here about 7:15, I get done working around 3:45-4:00 o'clock, pick 'em up off the bus, I just have an everyday life," gushes Labrier.  Blue Cross Blue Shield has it's own reason for wanting the work-at-home program to succeed.   With 300 employees in their current facility, growing any other way would be even more expensive.  "We'd have to uh, either lease more space, or add additional space to our current facility," says Danny Blaylock, Labrier's immediate supervisor.  Best of all, in the early stages, anyway, workers at home, in most instances, are slightly more productive.   "We just want them to be able to balance their personal and work lives, uh, and we think that this, that providing this opportunity for a number of our employees will, um, be better for them," says Blaylock.