Purposeful presence: Evernorth hopes grand facility in Morris Plains will draw some of its employees — some of the time

Company, which serves as health services line of Cigna, values collaboration of colleagues, but knows that no longer needs to be 5-days-a-week happening

Evernorth CEO Eric Palmer is a modern-day workplace realist. He knows the employees of the company that serves as the health services line of Cigna get a lot out of working side by side. But he also knows that doesn’t need to happen every day.

“We want to give our employees the tools and the resources to best do their jobs — and a lot of their jobs can be done from home,” he said. “It can be more convenient to have folks connect from their homes with their colleagues and with other sites. And we support that.”


“There is real value in getting in a room with a whiteboard, looking eye to eye with someone,” he said. “So, we want to have the spaces to enable that in an efficient and effective way — and, in many ways, this is embodiment of that in terms of just having a place to connect.”

The dining facility.

Palmer is speaking from the large dining area that features multiple food options in a 200,000-square-foot building in Morris Plains the company has taken a majority stake in. The area, which seats a few hundred, is across from Evernorth Labs, which will assist employees and drive meetings with clients. It’s near the gym (free to employees) and next to an outdoor space that features eating and lounge areas on one side of the building and a basketball court on the other. And it’s all near walking trails — including some that can bring employees into the heart of the borough, which is less than a mile away.

It’s an impressive campus for Evernorth employees — many of whom used to work in Franklin Lakes and were seeing the new site for the first time Tuesday, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony and company cookout.

But, if you think these amenities are there to “encourage” a full-time return to the office, Palmer will quickly shoot the thought down.

Who is Evernorth?

Evernorth, a Cigna company, is a data-driven health services business created in the fall of 2020 to accelerate the delivery of innovative and flexible solutions to meet the diverse needs of health plans, employers and government organizations and millions of patients. To do so, the company brings together a vast array of health services capabilities including pharmacy solutions, benefits management, care solutions and delivery, and data and analytics, as well as those of partners across the health care system and beyond.

Evernorth strives to coordinate best-in-class services, programs and partnerships, transforming them into comprehensive solutions that drive the most value for clients, customers, and patients.

“It’s a nice space, but it’s not set up to be a place where you come 9 to 5 every day,” he said. “It’s set up to be a place where we collaborate more, bring people together and work together.”

It’s all part of the company’s “Purposeful Presence” strategy.

Palmer said the beauty of the space is that it lets all lines of the company work together effortlessly. Huddle areas and collaboration spaces are everywhere.

“We have a lot of different functions and disciplines that are present here,” he said. “Being able to convene and connect those different disciplines, to solve problems or to work with our clients or to host external partners to help bring things together is part of what the space is about.”

Just not all at once. The numbers, in fact, back up the premise.

The company — which is headquartered in Connecticut (along with Cigna) and has a large facility in St. Louis — has approximately 1,500 employees that could work out of the Morris Plains location.

Evernorth officials feel they could squeeze nearly 900 onto the campus at a given time, but that they feel more comfortable with a total roughly half that.

“On typical days, being in the several hundreds would be good,” Palmer said.

Eric Palmer. (Evernorth)

The space, located on Route 53 (115 Tabor Road), heading toward Denville, was originally designed for Honeywell, which held a grand opening in the fall of 2015. Honeywell, however, barely used it. Soon after, it decided soon it was moving its senior leaders to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Honeywell still maintains a small presence in the building, as does Global Aerospace. The three companies now share a campus that was built to be a traditional world headquarters but has been transformed into a modern workplace: Class A space to attract employees … but only some of the time.

ROI-NJ spoke with Palmer on a number of topics. Here is a little more of the interview, edited for space and clarity:

ROI: Evernorth was looking for new space for some time. How fortunate were you to find a space like this only 26 miles from the location you were leaving?

Evernorth Labs

The pre-built lab space that came with the facility at 115 Tabor Road in Morris Plains was of great appeal to Evernorth. The company has transformed the space into Evernorth Labs, which acts as an idea accelerator that:

  • Dives into the metrics that help its clients unlock valuable actionable insights;
  • Bring together its clients — including employers, health plans and government entities — with the company’s clinicians, behavioral scientists and designers to challenge industry standards;
  • Prototypes and creates real-world solutions to deliver better outcomes for patients.

Eric Palmer: We were really fortunate to be able to find a lot of the things that already exist here — and in a (familiar) area. It’s not like we’re asking people to truck off into a totally new territory or space. This worked well with the footprint of the couple of thousand employees that we have in New Jersey, as well as being accessible with good amenities.

ROI: You faced a question that CEOs and companies here face on a regular basis: Should we stay in New Jersey or go elsewhere? Talk about why you chose to stay.

EP: We have the chance to locate people in different places, (but) our people have the opportunity to opt-in to other places as well. So, there’s an element here of supporting our team that’s here. And there’s an awful lot of business and an awful lot of people to connect and convene with (in this region). This is a great location for all the companies that have decision-makers in New Jersey and New York.

We’ve got a long history here, also. We operate a very large-scale home delivery pharmacy in southern New Jersey. That is another dimension to our presence in the state. So, having the suite of our services in a reasonably packaged area is valuable.

ROI: Talk about the importance of technology for the company.

EP: Tech is a real is a real focus here. Our (chief information officer, Chris LePre) is based here. That technology connectivity is really important. It’s been an enduring element of the presence that we’ve had here. If you go back, the different companies that have been acquired that have stuck the most within New Jersey have been around that technology dimension.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony.

ROI: Tell us the type of companies you’re looking to do business with.

EP: Evernorth serves four different major constituencies:

  • We serve health insurers, and we have relationships with really all of the largest health insurers.
  • We serve employers — people who are in the business of providing benefits. We serve them with behavioral care capabilities, pharmacy benefit capabilities and the like.
  • We serve the government directly. We have a relationship with the Department of Defense, where we provide prescription benefits for the Department of Defense.
  • And then we serve health care systems. Think about the physician who’s providing injections of specialty medications in their office or hospitals who are operating specialty pharmacies. We help them be successful in those sorts of endeavors.

At the end of the day, our products and services touch approximately 180 million Americans in a year.