Sarah Van Buskirk said she didn’t know losing her old customer service position would be a blessing.

Living in Humphrey, Nebraska, a town of roughly 800, most job opportunities available to her were located in Norfolk and Columbus, both about 25 miles away. Her new employer as of August, however, is even further from home.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE), located in Omaha, expanded its remote-work opportunities earlier this year to support job growth and economic development in the state. The pilot program consisted of 10 new remote customer service positions with more openings available in the months after.

BCBSNE received more than 1,200 applications for the initial positions. Van Buskirk’s was one of them. Receiving a job offer and bringing more than 10 years of previous customer service experience to the table, she began working remotely for the first time in her new role.

“It was an experience I was nervous about due to all training being done remotely,” she said. “It has been amazing. The training was seamless as if we were in the office.”

Kathy Vrbka, who is also a member of the pilot program, agreed the onboarding and training process went smoothly.

“Everyone has been so welcoming and willing to share their knowledge and truly wants you to succeed,” she said. “Even though I’m located hours away from Omaha, I feel connected to all the wonderful people I’ve met and worked with so far.”

Vrbka, who lives in Norfolk, Nebraska, has 37 years of customer service experience; her job with BCBSNE is her first remote position.

“I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to work remotely and really enjoy it,” she said. “I love helping others, and that’s what this job is about.”

BCBSNE targeted hiring in Norfolk and Columbus to leverage the state’s efforts to expand high-speed internet access to underserved areas.

“It is important that people who choose to live in rural areas are afforded the same benefits and opportunities as those in more populated areas,” Anthony Goins, Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director, said. “Connectivity in rural communities is the foundation for economic growth.”

Additionally, the new remote jobs provide BCBSNE with access to a greater pool of applicants for the roles.

“Our new remote positions allow us to hire the best of the best, regardless of a candidate’s proximity to Omaha,” Michelle Greene, customer service onboarding and coaching supervisor, said. “As a result, we are able to provide excellence in service for our members when they need us and create a dynamic and diverse culture.”

Van Buskirk has now been with BCBSNE for a few months. She said she’s grateful to have the opportunity to work remotely.

“With Columbus and Norfolk not being the size of Omaha, unless you have a college degree, the employment was limited,” she said. “I am in a position where not only am I home for my daughter, but I do not have to worry about traveling. I am in a position that feels like a career with many growth possibilities.”

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