As workers stay remote, insurers are leaving headquarters behind

With fewer employees spending five days a week in-office, two of the nation's largest insurers are consolidating their headquarters. 

In February, Humana said it plans to consolidate its Louisville, Ky. headquarters, leaving the 27-story tower that bears its name. Humana employees will work from two nearby buildings in the city's downtown. 

In 2023, UnitedHealth Group said it would move its Minnetonka, Minn.-headquarters, to an existing campus occupied by Optum, its health services subsidiary, in nearby Eden Prairie. UnitedHealthcare will continue to be based in Minnetonka. 

Both companies said the decision to consolidate headquarters reflects the need for less office space as more employees work remotely. 

"UnitedHealth Group offers many ways for our teams to structure how and where work gets done," a spokesperson told the Star Tribune in September. 

A Humana spokesperson told Becker's the company has around 10,000 employees in the Louisville area, and around 25% of those employees work from the office on any given day. 

"While the opportunity to have our Louisville-based employees all together in one location is exciting, the decision to exit Humana Tower was not easy. Serving as our flagship location since it was built in 1985, the Tower is an iconic part of the Louisville skyline and the site of many of the company's historic accomplishments," the spokesperson said. 

The tower is currently safe to occupy, a Humana spokesperson told Becker's, though the company has spent a "considerable amount" to repair the building.  In March, Humana sued three companies who designed and built the tower, alleging the building had structural defects, according to a Louisville Courier-Journal report.

In 2022, St. Louis-based Centene canceled plans for a $1 billion, 2.4 million-square-foot east coast headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. 

"Today, almost 90 percent of our workforce is working fully remote or in a hybrid work environment, and workplace flexibility is essential to attracting and retaining our top talent," a Centene spokesperson told The Charlotte Observer

Insurers stick to remote work 

While some high-profile companies are pushing workers to return to the office, five major insurers are among the top 100 companies hiring for the most remote positions, according to a January report from FlexJobs: CVS, UnitedHealth, Elevance, Humana and Centene. 

While other payers are hanging on to their headquarters, several insurers are cutting back on office space around the country. 

In 2022, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee said it would commit to permanent remote work and would not require most of its employees to work in-office. 

"As a response to employee feedback, remote work is here to stay," Vice President Dalya Qualls said in September 2022. "Our company is performing well on all the key metrics we currently track, clearly showing that remote work benefits the organization as a whole."

One major insurer, Cigna, is not among the country's top remote employers. The company is pushing employees to return to mostly in-person work, according to emails obtained by the Hartford Courant in April 2023. 

"Innovation and brainstorming are most effective in person — to easily build on each other's ideas, problem-solve and ideate," Cigna Group CEO David Cordani said in an email to employees. 

A spokesperson for Cigna told the Hartford Courant the company planned to bring more employees back to the office for the majority of their work days, while "supporting the flexibility they need to balance personal and professional responsibilities." 

Fewer buildings, same cities 

Though UnitedHealth Group and Humana have cut back on office space in their respective headquarters, both companies have emphasized their intent to stay put in the communities where they are major employers. 

After the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reported UnitedHealth's headquarters were up for lease in March 2023, a spokesperson for the company told the outlet that Minnesota remains the company's home. 

In a statement shared with Becker's, a Humana spokesperson said the company is working with Louisville officials and community leaders to find new uses for its former headquarters. 

"Following the consolidation of our campus footprint, Humana will remain a strong anchor for the downtown Louisville business community, with our company and our employees providing a positive economic impact for the city," the spokesperson said. 

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