Target Delays Office Return Until Fall

Target Delays Office Return Until Fall

Coronavirus concerns as well as the upcoming trial of Derek Chauvin make many downtown Minneapolis employers hesitant to set a return date.

Target Corp. won’t call employees back to the head office in downtown Minneapolis until at least fall, citing the “health and safety of our team members” as its top priority. The retailer had previously set June 1 for a phased return.

“We continue to turn to public health experts for guidance on the coronavirus, and are also closely monitoring the safety of downtown Minneapolis as we evaluate and adjust our plans,” the company said in an official statement.

The news comes as the city braces for the March trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd. Barricades are already going up around police precincts and the courthouse. Next week, the Minneapolis Downtown Council will hold a virtual safety meeting to brief businesses on trial preparations. MDC plans to continuously update a trial webpage with information on key court dates, street closures and skyway hours.

“The planning and preparations for the trial are very extensive,” the downtown council’s president and CEO Steve Cramer said. “But it’s not a guarantee. Businesses should be prepared to take additional precautions.”

The Target delay didn’t surprise Cramer. But, he acknowledged, it could set back hopes of a summer “reanimation” of downtown as some companies take their cues from Target, the largest downtown Minneapolis employer with 8,500 employees.

“There are concerns about lack of vibrancy, but without a return to the office, we’re not going to see that return to vibrancy.” —Steve Cramer, president/CEO, Minneapolis Downtown Council

“We do confront a massive chicken and egg problem,” Cramer said. “There are concerns about lack of vibrancy, but without a return to the office, we’re not going to see that return to vibrancy.”

Minnesota’s Covid-19 safety protocol still requires working from home when possible. Gatherings are currently capped at 250 people. Nevertheless, the downtown council is working on plans for a farmer’s market that could kick off in late June and the return of Chameleon Shoppes, a pop-up retail program that offers downtown storefront spaces to women and BIPOC-owned brands.

“Until the customer base is reestablished at a higher level, with people coming in for events and work, it’s tough,” Cramer said. “But we do think there will be more back-to-office activity in late summer and early fall.”

Many downtown employers aren’t ready to set a return date. “There are too many variables at this point to have a firm schedule for return to office,” U.S. Bank’s head of external communications Jeff Shelman said. “We have told employees that large-scale return to office efforts will happen no earlier than this summer. Employees will also receive at least a 30-day notice before returning to the office.”

Thrivent, which completed its new $125 million downtown Minneapolis headquarters in the midst of the pandemic, plans a phased approach to returning to the office starting July 1. “We are continuing to evaluate the situation and will make changes as needed,” said Callie Briese, director of external affairs.

Target previously announced that even when employees do return to the office, it will be part time, and flexibility remains the plan, the company said this week. “In the future, headquarters team members will flex for their day, working part-time in the office and part-time at home to allow for flexibility and collaboration.