Return-to-work stances differ amongst Minneapolis’ public sector, downtown’s largest workforce

Debate to bring workers back to downtown Minneapolis

Debate to bring workers back to downtown Minneapolis

The debate continues over whether the largest employers in downtown Minneapolis have a responsibility to require more of their workers to come back to the office to liven up the heart of the city.

If you add up Hennepin County and City of Minneapolis workers, the public sector is the biggest workforce downtown, according to the latest statistics from the Minneapolis Downtown Council

Mayor Jacob Frey, in his State of the City address in May, made a call to action for workers to come back Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Asked if he’s heeding his own call, Mayor Frey said, “In my office. They’re coming in five days a week. So yes, we’ve got some divergence, but for the most part, people are coming in.”

“For those that don’t necessarily have to be in the office, we’ve directed that [all city] departments have to come in at least two days a week,” he added.

Frey says about 67% of the city’s workforce has been working in-person, five days a week.

“We all have a role to play. Big businesses like Target have a role to play. We as city government have a role to play,” he said.

In contrast, 32% of Hennepin County employees are back in person full-time, according to County Administrator David Hough.

Asked if Hennepin County has an obligation to help fill vacancies in downtown buildings, Hough said, “I don’t think we do. I think we are providing the level of services that we need.”

“People don’t have to come down to a government building to do certain transactions,” he added.

26% of County workers are fully remote and the remaining 42% come in at least once a week, Hough said.

“And I think that is meeting our responsibility, first and foremost, to meet the needs of our customers, our residents,” he added.

“There’s some responsibility that each of us has to show up in a way that’s right for us,” argued Leah Wong, vice president of external relations for the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

“I think employers and employees are one piece of the puzzle,” she said.

“Again, it’s not a mandate,” Mayor Frey began in conclusion. “But it’s saying, ‘Let’s lock arms and do this together,’ to get back to work on those Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.”

Hennepin County’s flexible policy has also been key to keeping and recruiting workers, according to Hough.

All in all, about 65% of the overall downtown workforce is back in office spaces at least one day a week, according to the Minneapolis Downtown Council. Wong said that she expects that percentage to go up a bit more now that school is back in session.