Aug 9, 2023 - Business

Twin Cities companies calling more workers back to the office

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Xcel Energy is the latest Twin Cities employer to call workers back to the office on a more regular basis.

Why it matters: The return-to-office debate affects workers who like flexibility, managers who want to see their employees in person, and businesses who depend on foot traffic, which is still down 60% in downtown Minneapolis compared to 2019.

State of play: Xcel will require workers to come in three days a week starting in mid-September. The utilities company said it wants more collaboration and also noted that many of its employees have continued working in-person in service centers and power plants.

Meanwhile, the Star Tribune last week began "highly encouraging" its 450 downtown employees to come into the office two days a week, said chief marketing officer Steve Yaeger.

  • "We're taking a common-sense approach, based on lots of employee feedback," Yaeger told Axios in an email. "We don't want employees coming into the office just to sit on [Microsoft] Teams calls and answer emails. We want the focus of in-office work to be collaboration and community-building."

Zoom out: Google, Facebook, and other Silicon Valley firms have gotten more aggressive with calling workers back into the office as the tech job market softens.

Yes, but: Many big employers locally are still without any in-person mandates. Target, downtown Minneapolis' largest employer before the pandemic, still does not require its employees to come to the office, nor does Thrivent, which had more than 1,000 downtown workers in 2019.

Between the lines: Employees continue to have the upper hand when it comes to working arrangements, as unemployment remains below 3% in Minnesota.

  • Despite some slight softening in the job market, a May survey by HR firm Robert Half found that 49% of workers are either looking for a new job or plan to begin looking before the end of the year, which is even higher than in 2022.

What they're saying: Employers not offering remote work flexibility are "having a harder time retaining and attracting talent," said Kyle O'Keefe, Minnesota district president for Robert Half.

The bottom line: While plenty of executives would love to have their workers back in the office more often, they won't have much leverage to call them back until the job market cools.


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