Aug 20, 2021 - COVID

Twin Cities employers navigate return to office amid Delta's spread

Illustration of a water cooler, with the word "nope" bubbling up from the bottom.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Companies that push too hard to bring employees back to the office are at risk of losing workers. But so are companies that move to an all-remote model.

Driving the news: Some of the Twin Cities’ biggest employers — Target, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo — have delayed their September return-to-office plans due to concerns about the Delta variant.

  • Meanwhile, others are still plotting to bring workers back Sept. 7.

The intrigue: How employers handle their return to office is a big factor in how they fare in the so-called “great resignation” that could result in 25% to 40% of employees nationwide quitting their jobs, according to surveys.

  • "I keep hearing from employers that they're sticking to their plan of coming back to the office. And my response to them is, 'Do you realize you're going lose about 10% to 15% of your people?' I don't know what the actual number is, but a certain segment of their employee base doesn’t want that," said Paul DeBettignies, a Twin Cities-based IT recruiter.

State of play: 51% of Minnesota companies are planning to hire for new jobs and another 48% are planning to fill vacant positions, according to a survey by human resources consulting firm Robert Half. In other words, almost every company is looking for workers.

  • "It's a situation where the employees — the talent — are holding a lot of cards that they haven't in prior years," said Kyle O’Keefe, Robert Half's senior regional director for Minnesota.

Between the lines: The 20-something workers are more likely to want to return to the office so they can be seen and advance their careers, DeBettignies said. The mid-career, established professionals are less interested in in-person work.

  • "I hear companies saying, particularly in the tech space, that we're going remote-only. They've got space but employees either don’t need to come in or they come in twice a month," he said. "I try to remind those folks they're probably going to lose 5% to 10% of their people. Because not everybody wants to work for a remote-only company."

The bottom line: Robert Half surveyed employees nationally in April and found that 34% currently working from home due to the pandemic would look for a new job if they were required to be in the office five days a week.

  • "The organizations that remain nimble and flexible will be able to retain, attract and engage their workforce," O'Keefe said. "I would hesitate on bringing some sort of one-size-fits-all approach."

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