Aug 11, 2023 - News

Principal Financial Group calls workers back to the office

A photo of Principal's world headquarters sign.

Principal employs about 9,000 Iowans, many from its downtown Des Moines headquarters. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Principal Financial Group employees who live within 30 miles of the company's downtown world headquarters must return to the office at least three days a week, CEO Dan Houston announced yesterday in an email to employees obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: More employers are trying to get workers back in the office following the pandemic, but they're getting pushback.

  • For example, hundreds of Amazon employees in May walked out on the job over return-to-office mandates.

What's happening: Principal's goal is to build a more vibrant and collaborative in-office environment, Houston wrote in the email.

  • Company spokesperson Sara Bonney tells Axios she's unable to summarize employees' reactions to the announcement.

Details: The in-office requirement begins Nov. 6 and also applies to employees who work from its location at Proximity Park in Charlotte, N.C.

  • There's no change for current full-time employees who already work remotely from outside the radius.

Catch up fast: In the early days of the pandemic, the company required most employees to work remotely.

  • Workers returned on a voluntary basis in June 2020. Many local Principal employees have been required to return to the office at least one day a week in recent months.

Between the lines: Principal invested hundreds of millions of dollars in campus renovations prior to the pandemic.

  • The company owns more than $300 million of real estate in Polk County, assessor records show.
  • That includes downtown's 801 Grand Building, the state's tallest.

State of play: Downtown is wrestling with multiple office losses since the pandemic.

  • Metro office vacancies decreased slightly in recent months — but there are still more than three million square feet of unoccupied space, the Business Record reports.

Meanwhile, DSM's government is buying Nationwide's now-vacant building after the company embraced a work-from-home transition.

What they're saying: It's likely that more metro companies will follow Principal's protocol, Greg Edwards, CEO of Catch DSM, tells Axios.

  • Productivity is often harder to track and personal interactions aren't as strong in remote settings, he said.

What's next: Principal's hybrid employees will soon have "badge-in data" to help track their days in the office.

  • Managers will have access to those reports and will be responsible for oversight of the in-person policy.
  • Exceptions will not be common but the company remains committed to flexibility and supporting a variety of work arrangements, according to Houston's memo.

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