Sep 7, 2021 - Business

Minnesota's return-to-office dud

Illustration of an office chair moving from left to right, but slowing down and reversing before it gets all the way across the screen.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Still working from home this morning? You're not alone.

State of play: Sept. 7 was long targeted by companies as the day they would bring their workers back to the office.

  • At the time the date was set, the COVID caseload in Minnesota was low, hospitals had plenty of open beds and people were getting vaccinated in massive numbers.

Fast forward: The vaccination rate has slowed, the Delta variant has spread and hospitals are again nearing capacity. And big companies like Target, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank have pushed back their return-to-work plans.

Why it matters: Some percentage of workers are miserable at home and were looking forward to coming back.

  • Plus, restaurants and retailers that thrive off office workers are once again playing the waiting game as their debt to landlords piles up.

Yes, but: Some employers have already called workers back to the office. Others are still returning today.

  • Law firm Stinson is sticking to a September callback, with workers coming in two days a week. Taft Stettinius & Hollister brought back workers in August, per the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
  • "We think we're going to be living with COVID for a long time," David Crosby, Stinson's deputy managing partner, told the Biz Journal.

Between the lines: Many companies have been putting off long-term real estate decisions, including whether to shed office space, downsize or move. Delayed returns just pushed those decisions further back.

  • "It's really hard for an employer to determine what their future office needs are going to be when they're really not certain what's going to happen over the next 12 to 24 months," Mike Gelfman, a suburban office broker for Colliers International's Twin Cities office, told Nick.
  • "To go out and make a commitment with a 10-year lease is really difficult," he added.

What's ahead: Some companies are telling workers they're delaying their return indefinitely, while others are now targeting early January.


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