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Will Offices In The Twin Cities Ever Return To The Way They Were?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Fourteen months ago, every desk on the third floor of the Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union in St. Paul was occupied.

"The lunchroom would have been filled with people," said Julie Cosgrove, the chief talent officer at Affinity Plus. "It was what I would consider a traditional work space."

When asked if she ever thought it would return to that capacity, Cosgrove said she didn't think so. Over the next year, she expects employees to return once a week or twice a month.

"We're not saying everyone needs to do it in a certain way," she said. "We're looking at an individualized custom approach."

A recent survey conducted by the Minneapolis Downtown Council found 80% of downtown companies are developing "future of work" plans with a hybrid/flexible plan as the most referenced. Eighty percent of those companies also expect to have employees in the office three to five days a week with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as the most prevalent expected weekdays for return.

The St. Paul Downtown Alliance reports hearing from its members that 55% of workplaces will adopt a hybrid approach, but still require employees to work in the office the majority of the time.

"They have to assess which tasks, which job functions, which groups can bear the virtuality in to their general structure and how can we be good at this," says Tsedal Neeley, author of "Remote Work Revolution" and professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

Neeley believes the future of work is hybrid. According to a Harris Poll survey conducted in May, 40% of Americans prefer to work from home full time, 35% want a home-office hybrid and 25% want to go back to the office full time.

"Many [companies] admit they have no choice but to explore this hybrid workforce structure because of fear of turnover," Neeley said.

WCCO reached out to a dozen of Minnesota's largest employers about their return to work plans. While some companies said they weren't ready to release details, several said they would move forward with hybrid plans for many of their office employees.

U.S. Bank said the majority of its office employees will return in September, and the company expects most of those employees to work in a hybrid role.

General Mills reports its employees, once they felly return, will have a mix of time spent onsite and offsite.

Target said, in the future, its headquarters team will flex for their day, working part-time in the office and part-time at home.

Xcel Energy said it will launch a new flexible work program after Labor Day that takes a hybrid approach.

Once a bulk of the employees return, Neeley says what the office itself looks like could be different as well.

"That's a huge, huge question," she says. "I think architects have so many opportunities to help us here."

For example, some workspaces might be used a hoteling spaces, rather than permanent desks.

"I think it such a learning curve and learning process," Cosgrove said. "We're going to take it one step at a time."

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