Omicron impacts return-to-office plans in Twin Cities town centers
“Our hope is that once again, as we get past this current omicron peak, we’ll start to see that momentum pick up again. [in 2022]“said Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.
Cramer says that momentum happened at the end of 2021. Last year, he said the rate of people working in downtown Minneapolis jumped from mid-teens to 41% in the late of the year.
He added that this number is expected to increase this month, but the omicron variant has changed that.
“A lot of companies that circled January on their calendar to really ramp up their return-to-office planning, that’s really been let down because of omicron,” Cramer said.
Their downtown neighbors to the east are in a similar situation. The Saint Paul Downtown Alliance said the rate of people working in the city’s downtown core is around 35-40%. They too expected this number to increase in early 2022 and also cited the omicron variant as the reason for the change in plans for some companies.
“As we talk to employers, I think everyone is excited to have their employees back,” said Joe Spencer, president of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance.
Both organizations are confident that more workers will return and say the prevalence of COVID-19 will be the most important factor in determining when this will happen and how many will return.
As mentioned, there was momentum and optimism towards the end of 2021 with people returning to downtown offices. Bad Ax Throwing, hoping to expand its customer base, opened a new location in downtown Minneapolis in November.
“It’s going well,” said Xander Cavanagh, who works at Bad Ax Throwing’s new downtown. “We get a pretty consistent number of people coming for company parties, and people come after work,” he added.
Cavanagh also said the steady stream has slowed as the omicron variant has grown – he hopes this will calm down soon and more companies will stick to their plans to return to the city centre.
Once more workers return, the Minneapolis Downtown Council said it will be different from before the pandemic. They expect some businesses to reduce their downtown workspaces as fewer people are likely to return downtown. This is partly because they expect companies to be more flexible with their employees who have come to appreciate working from home.