Walz calls on private sector workers to return to the office while state workers remain at home

As downtown Minneapolis struggles with crime and an exodus of businesses, those who are left are pleading with Target, a major downtown employer, to get its workers back to the office. Kare 11 reported recently:

Reporter Brianna Kelly spent months talking to downtown Minneapolis businesses about the flexible hybrid approach of downtown’s largest employer, and the impact it is having on the local economy.

“You know, everyone wants Target to be back; we need Target to be back,” Kelly said. “They’re a huge part of the entire ecosystem downtown.”

Kelly spoke to a variety of downtown leaders in different industries about the impact Target’s office strategy has had on everything from property values to the hospitality business.

“We’ve lost an arm and a leg staying put and waiting for downtown to get back,” restaurateur David Fhima told Kelly. “We’re done waiting. We’re calling on Target: Do your part, please.”

But she says Target looms so large, that she heard from many more who didn’t want to speak publicly.

“A lot of people are talking about how great it would be if Target was back at the office and how much of a boost it would give to downtown,” she said. “But a lot of people are a little apprehensive to talk about it on the record.”

Target declined an interview on its future return to office plans, but a spokesperson pointed to a company announcement from April 2022, titled “How Target’s Reimagining the Future of Our Headquarters Work,” which announced, “Most team members won’t be given a set amount of time they’re expected to be onsite vs. remote.”

Gov. Walz told WCCO recently that he’d like to see workers back downtown Minneapolis, but it’s not his decision.

True enough. But, if he has a preference for Target’s workers to get back to the office, he could lead by example. The Star Tribune reported recently:

Minnesota’s largest state agency, the Department of Human Services, continues to let many of its employees work from home more than three years after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The state Department of Education recently moved its main office from Roseville to a smaller building in northeast Minneapolis.

And the Department of Revenue has closed seven regional offices in greater Minnesota over the past two years, shifting about 130 affected employees to remote work.

Much of Minnesota’s government workforce hasn’t fully returned to the office and state agency leaders say they aren’t planning to order employees back any time soon. Instead, agencies are looking to consolidate space and move into smaller buildings in what appears to be a lasting shift toward hybrid work.

“This is a whole culture shift that I would be very shocked to see reversed in the future,” said Megan Dayton, president of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), which represents 16,500 state government workers. “If the state of Minnesota is strategically deciding to reduce its footprint, I don’t see them large-scale just calling people back to the workplaces arbitrarily.”

The state will spend $20 million in the coming years toward creating what some officials are calling the “workplace of the future.”

A good leader never asks others to do what they aren’t willing to do themselves. If Gov. Walz wants workers back in the office, he should start closer to home.