Oct 28, 2021
How Cigna Teams Have Stayed Connected While Working Apart During COVID-19

Employee well-being drives a measurable impact on business and the economy.

That's the key finding of recent research by the Economist, which was sponsored by Cigna. The research found that 38% of employees and executives surveyed rank fatigue, stress and burnout as the largest barriers to business success today.

In the midst of a pandemic, workplace culture and employee well-being has taken on heightened importance, as companies and employees adjust to a hybrid workplace, rooted in technology that supports both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. At Cigna, employees have learned a thing or two throughout the last 18 months of working from home, particularly around building meaningful connections in the ever-changing workplace.

We asked employees to share stories on how their teams are creating flexibility and staying connected in today’s evolving work environment. We’re excited to share what we learned – and hope that these ideas spark ideas for others.

Liz Baarlaer, senior advisor, controls assurance, Cigna:

We implemented a “Get to Know You” moment during our team meetings. Each team member was assigned a day to introduce themselves.

Additionally, we implemented a social half hour every third week where we encouraged team members to grab a drink and/or snack, turn on their video, and just chat about current events. We play interactive games (kahoot.it), share Netflix shows to binge watch, or just tell stories of how we’re coping.

Tomeka Casanova, product manager, behavioral health at Cigna:

I work with a dynamic, supportive and SMART team! We’ve shared so many special moments together. Whether its vacation photos, special family photos, or regular team meetings, we value connection. Plus, we have fun while doing so. One of our team members coordinated a Friday morning Peloton ride. We meet at 7 a.m. sharp on the leaderboard and ride together as an exercise group.


Katie Kuk, senior account executive, Accredo (a Cigna Corp. company):

A few colleagues from a past team and I like to stay connected through working out on Peloton. We have a weekly calendar invite to block off time to either ride together or find a time to complete the recommended ride. Each person has an assigned week where they get to pick the ride. Sometimes we exchange funny emails because someone has picked a difficult ride, but we’re always thankful once we’re finished. It’s a great way to stay connected and be healthy together. There is even a Cigna leaderboard tag with over 200 members. #TeamCigna

Kelly Rulo, applications development advisor for specialty solutions, Cigna:

We have several ways we stay connected. When you first join the team, we have a page in Confluence with a bio for each team member, including a picture, super power, hobbies, etc. 

We have daily stand-up meetings to review what we accomplished, what we still need to do, and any blockers we have. We also have one-on-one meetings with our manager every other week to discuss any needs we might have, training we would like to get, other opportunities, or anything we want to discuss. Periodically we meet with the whole department to do games in teams – that’s a lot of fun!

Laura Banks, senior advisor of product strategy for value-based solutions, Express Scripts (a Cigna Corp. company):

I joined my current team in October 2020. I was looking for ways to meet my new teammates face-to-face in a safe way, especially those based in St. Louis. I suggested we meet up over the Thanksgiving holiday to walk a well-known paved trail in the area called “Grant’s Trail,” which is two lanes and stretches for eight miles. We didn’t walk the full eight miles, but the walk was a big success, and my new teammates brought their dogs and kiddos with them.

We were able to stay socially distant outside while walking and talking. I enjoyed it so much that we planned another event in the spring and even reached out to our remote team members. We encouraged them to get outdoors and walk as well and FaceTime us to feel more connected.

Once I was vaccinated and it was safe to meet indoors, I met up with a colleague on my team for coffee on a Saturday and even appetizers one evening after work. I realized how much I missed these in-person events, and reached out to a few former teammates to walk Grant’s Trail with them too. Now there’s even a colleague that I walk with almost weekly before work. She brings her dog and I bring my one-year old in the stroller. We walk at 7:15 a.m., and it’s a great way to start the day taking care of my emotional, physical, mental and even social health. I recommend morning walks with colleagues before work to anyone who can do it. This has helped me so much in staying connected during this time.

Randa Gaalswijk, sales effectiveness senior manager, individual and family plans, Cigna:

My team holds weekly team meetings. Each week we start with sharing a “fun fact.” Anything to break the ice and open the conversation. We also try to mix the “business” with personal development and other topics that are important to keep us connected. We host virtual happy hours, virtual baby showers and other celebrations. We also stay connected via text with fun photos or even amusing stories. In addition, because we lead the engagement for our business unit, we plan virtual volunteer days and virtual talent shows. For October, we’re all doing the virtual Komen walk on Oct. 23.


We're People-People

We aspire to make healthcare more affordable, predictable, and simple, but that's our day job. It is equally important to take time for ourselves and fulfill our own personal passions.

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