Mr. Mark T. Bertolini runs Aetna, one of America’s 100 largest companies by revenue. He’s recently been raising some eyebrows with his new ”company culture.”
While newer companies like Zappos are known to think outside of the box, Aetna’s longstanding history and formal company policies were not ones to say… “aum.”
It started after a near-death experience while skiing in Vermont where he was led to an intensive care unit and doctors found 5 of his neck vertebrae fractured along with a tangle of nerves from his left arm detached from his spinal cord. With a magical recovery that baffled doctors, (they even had a priest administer last rites), he was released almost 2 weeks after the accident. When the pain medications did not help him post-recovery, he tried yoga. He was blown away by the deep history of yoga and mindfulness meditation and the way it had him let go of his pain. Since yoga and meditation let Mr. Bertolini return to work, he changed his whole health regimen…as well the culture of work at Aetna.
He has offered free yoga and meditation classes to Aetna employees.
He even began selling the same classes to the businesses that contract with Aetna for their health insurance.
For a company that focuses on HEALTH, this is groundbreaking.
Most health insurance companies are thriving because of increased enrollment, Aetna’s stock has tripled since Mr. Bertolini took over as chief executive in 2010, and actually recently hit a record high.
So are mantras making them more money?
The answer may be yes if you look at the studies. According to the data Mr. Bertolini has been collecting from Aetna’s meditation and yoga programs, more than one-quarter of the company’s work force of 50,000 people has participated in at least one class, and those who have, reported a 28 percent reduction in their stress levels, a 20 percent improvement in sleep quality and a 19 percent reduction in pain. The bonus was they also become more effective on the job, gaining an average of 62 minutes per week of productivity each, which Aetna estimates is worth $3,000 per employee per year. Demand for his implemented programs continues to rise and every class is overbooked.
The results of the study were published in The Journal of Occupational Health Psychology in 2012.
“We have this groundswell inside the company of people wanting to take the classes,” Mr. Bertolini said to the NY Times. “It’s been pretty magical.”
The goals for each range from improving over all well being to increasing focus for productivity, but for all, they allow for more present minded individuals who are less prone to jumping the gun on decisions and a more amiable work force.
Aetna now has about $58 billion in annual revenue and over 23.5 million members.
The first year, paid medical claims per employee went down 7.3 percent, amounting to about $9 million in savings. The next year, health care costs rose 5.7 percent, but remained about 3 percent lower than they were before the yoga and meditation programs were introduced at the company.
He says that it’s about creating healthier employees to create a healthier world and a healthier company. He announced this at an Aetna conference recently, where he stated he was going to increase its minimum wage from $12 to $16 dollars. Mr. Bertolini has also been known to give his lowest-paid employees a 33 percent raise.
He himself grew up in a working class family and now makes millions of dollars a year. As he told a recent interview with the NY Times about mindfulness meditation and yoga, “It’s made me question what I do and how I look at the world,” Bertolini said. “It’s made me consider my influence and how I treat people.”
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