U.S. Bank employees on Monday were supposed to start a mandatory return to their offices.
Instead, the bank backed off the deadline, e-mailing employees, including more than 4,900 in downtown offices, that plans had changed.
"Due to the Omicron variant and the dramatic increase in COVID 19 cases worldwide, we have decided to pause our broad return to office plans for January," the e-mail said.
The new hybrid model of work was postponed for Deluxe corporate employees as well, who were planning to head back to their new headquarters downtown last week.
And Ameriprise, which had required some office days starting in the fall, softened that stance for its 4,800 downtown workers.
Ameriprise spokesperson Alison Mueller said Thursday, "We are allowing people to work from home to start the year."
The highly contagious omicron variant has caused new restrictions such as mask mandates in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Before Christmas break, more workers had slowly been returning to offices, with about 35% to 40% of the volume seen before the pandemic, according to the Downtown Minneapolis and Downtown St. Paul councils. Now, downtown boosters fear a reversal could starve the fragile economic recovery of restaurants, gyms and skyway shops.
But with the highly contagious omicron variant now accounting for 70% of all new COVID-19 infections, the postponements are "probably not much of a surprise," said Securian spokesman Jeff Bakken in an e-mail.
The employee benefits giant was set for its 3,000 downtown St. Paul workers to start a hybrid work plan Feb. 1. Now, it is hoping that employees will be able to head back in March.
"Omicron is definitely disrupting some of the January/February plans for office workers," said Joe Spencer, president of the St. Paul Downtown Alliance. "Many of our employers, including Ecolab, have simply let their folks know that they'll be given a 30 days' notice before they're required return to the office."
Downtown Minneapolis' largest employer, Target, also has left a back-to-office date open. Earlier in the pandemic, officials hoped for a June return. But by August, Target announced that it would not adopt a firm return date for its 8,500 employees but instead would gradually return using a permanent hybrid work model.
Deluxe, which opened its Minneapolis downtown headquarters in November, will monitor the data and figure out a new plan, said spokesman Cameron Potts.
"The office is open for employees who want to go in, but we are giving employees the option of continuing to work from home at this time until the current surge subsides," he said of the company, which has been transitioning from a check-printing firm to one that offers small business services.
Same with U.S. Bank, which will limit meeting and travel for the rest of the month, it said in a statement. "We expect we will need to ebb and flow like this for awhile."
Just before Christmas, Wells Fargo, which is the third largest employer in Minneapolis with 7,000 workers (pre-pandemic), and Perkins & Will, an architecture firm with offices in the IDS Tower, both announced return-to-work delays due to rising concerns about the omicron variant.
Minneapolis-based Graco, which makes industrial sprayers and pumps, has no plans to change its "no remote, no hybrid" work policy, officials confirmed Thursday.
Graco required all workers to come back into the office in July, reasoning that if factory workers had to be on-site, everyone should be, officials said.