The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is ushering workers back to downtown Minneapolis on Monday, joining a host of other employers who have laid out new back-to-office plans.
Securian Financial’s employees will start coming back to the company’s St. Paul headquarters on March 22. United Natural Foods Inc., the food distribution giant that owns Cub Foods, will bring office workers back in the spring as well.
Managers at the Fed, which has about 1,000 employees in Minneapolis, started to come back in November and fully expected to reopen offices in December or January. But as the omicron variant caused COVID-19 cases to increase, the target dates were put off.
Now that cases are trending down, Neel Kashkari, the Minneapolis Fed chief, said the organization felt good about a late February return.
“I am excited to see everybody back,” Kashkari said. “I can’t believe it’s been two years. But we will see. I am sure there are going to be some hiccups along the way. There always are.”
The state’s reported positivity rate of COVID-19 diagnostic testing yo-yoed from 8.6% in the two weeks ending Dec. 20 to a record 23.5% on Jan. 10 to 7.2% on Feb. 15. It soon could drop below the state’s 5% caution threshold for substantial viral spread for the first time since Aug. 2.
Kashkari required all employees to get vaccinated this past summer and allowed people to re-enter the building on a voluntary basis. Going forward, they are expected to show up full time.
In contrast, Securian Financial notified its 3,000 headquarter workers Thursday that managers will return on a hybrid basis on March 22. Others will follow in phases starting April 5.
The move comes “after two years in a company-wide work-from-home environment,” said spokesman Jeff Bakken in an e-mail. “Hybrid work will be our new normal moving forward.”
The hybrid work model adopted by many employers is reverberating through other parts of the economy. Some skyway businesses wonder how many people will be downtown on a given day.
Bright Horizons runs more than 1,000 on-site child-care centers nationwide and provides emergency backup child-care services for employees at Target, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, United Health, 3M, Medtronic and Allianz.
With more employers recalling workers on a hybrid basis, demand for “backup child care just increased exponentially,” said Maribeth Bearfield, chief human resources officer for the chain. “Our backup business did extremely well, as people are looking for flexible options.”
Since the pandemic began, Bright Horizons opened 23 child-care centers, bought Chicago-based Sittercity and contracted with Edina-based College Nannies and Sitters to keep up with demand from working parents dealing with shifting work demands.
“Work and life have blended together” and that is changing the child-care landscape for working families, Bearfield said. “The pandemic happened and all of a sudden the way people work changes. We have people working in very different ways.”
For UNFI, going back to the office will be voluntary, said the group’s chief financial officer, John Howard.
Howard joked with Kashkari during a recent meeting that the company originally hoped to reopen its Eden Prairie offices in February, but the idea of opening anything in Minnesota during the cold month of February “didn’t sound very positive, so I think we will do it in the spring.”
Workers will need to be vaccinated to work in the offices, Howard said during a video call earlier this month while he was in Providence, R.I., opening UNFI’s office there.
Howard is looking forward to “a great return.”
“I think folks have forgotten the value of being in an office together. I am a fan of working remotely personally,” he said. “I think it serves a purpose and it has a place in the toolbox of how can we work with folks. But being in the office? And being able to just walk down the hall and talk to folks? You just can’t beat that.”
The Fed workers will join employees from Ameriprise and the city of Minneapolis, which already have returned on a hybrid basis. Some U.S. Bank workers also were set to return late this month. Xcel Energy headquarters workers will return March 7.
While Wells Fargo workers started to come back Feb. 10, most of the bank’s U.S. employees were expected to start having office days around March 14.
Officials at St. Paul-based Ecolab said they have not yet announced any return-to-work plans. The maker of disinfecting and cleaning products and services had originally hoped to begin returning workers on a voluntary basis in June 2021.