Financial basis

More Minnesota businesses are solidifying their return-to-work plans

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is bringing workers back to downtown Minneapolis on Monday, joining a host of other employers who have drawn up new return-to-work plans.

Securian Financial employees will begin returning to the company’s headquarters in St. Paul on March 22. United Natural Foods Inc., the food retail giant that owns Cub Foods, will also bring office workers back in the spring.

Officials at the Fed, which has about 1,000 employees in Minneapolis, began returning in November and expected to reopen their offices in December or January. But because the omicron variant has caused an increase in COVID-19 cases, target dates have been pushed back.

Now that cases are trending down, Minneapolis Fed chief Neel Kashkari said the organization was happy with a return in late February.

“It’s great to see everyone again,” Kashkari said. “I can’t believe it’s been two years. But we’ll see. I’m sure there will be hiccups along the way. There always will be.”

The state-reported positivity rate of COVID-19 diagnostic tests fell from 8.6% in the two weeks ending Dec. 20 to a record 23.5% on Jan. 10 to 7.2% on February 15. It could soon drop below the state’s 5. % of cautious threshold for substantial viral spread for the first time since August 2.

Kashkari required all employees to be vaccinated last summer and allowed people into the building on a voluntary basis. Going forward, they are expected to run full-time.

In contrast, Securian Financial informed its 3,000 head office employees on Thursday that managers would return to 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,” spokesman Jeff Bakken said in an email. “Hybrid working will be our new normal moving forward.”

The hybrid work model embraced by many employers spills over into other sectors of the economy. Some skyway companies wonder how many people will be downtown on any given day.

Bright Horizons operates more than 1,000 on-site child care centers nationwide and provides emergency child care services to employees of Target, US Bank, Wells Fargo, United Health, 3M, Medtronic and Allianz.

With more employers recalling workers on a hybrid basis, the demand for “backup childcare has just grown exponentially,” said Maribeth Bearfield, the chain’s director of human resources. “Our backup business has done extremely well as people seek flexible options.”

Since the pandemic began, Bright Horizons has opened 23 daycares, purchased Chicago-based Sittercity, and contracted Edina-based College Nannies and Sitters to meet the demand of working parents facing to changing work demands.

“Work and life have intertwined” and that’s changing the landscape of child care for working families, Bearfield said. “The pandemic happened and all of a sudden the way people work changes. We have people who work in very different ways.”

For UNFI, returning to the office will be voluntary, said group chief financial officer John Howard.

Howard joked with Kashkari at 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 seem very positive, so I think we’ll do that in the spring.”

Workers will need to be vaccinated to work in offices, Howard said in a video call earlier this month while in Providence, RI, opening the UNFI office there.

Howard looks forward to “a big comeback”.

“I think people have forgotten the value of being in an office together. I’m a fan of remote work personally,” he said. “I think it serves a purpose and has its place in the toolbox of how we can work with people. But being in the office? And being able to just walk down the hall and talk to people? You just can’t beat that.”

Fed workers will join Ameriprise and City of Minneapolis workers, who have already returned to a hybrid basis. Some US bank employees were also expected to return at the end of this month. Xcel Energy head office employees will return on March 7.

While Wells Fargo employees began returning on February 10, most U.S. employees at the bank were expected to start having office days around March 14.

Officials at St. Paul-based Ecolab said they have yet to announce any return-to-work plans. The maker of sanitizing and cleaning products and services had originally hoped to start laying off workers on a voluntary basis in June 2021.