When Cummins Inc. opened its global distribution headquarters downtown, the gleaming, nine-story structure was expected to house about 250 of the Columbus-based engine maker’s employees, with room to grow to as many as 450.
But that was in 2017, three years before the pandemic would change the way companies and employees viewed working in the office.
Today, the building—which Cummins paid more than $30 million to construct—is operating at only 25% to 30% capacity, a company executive said.
And that’s not unusual. In fact, the total number of times workers visited downtown offices last year was 38% lower than in 2109, according to Placer.ai, which calculated the figures using proprietary location intelligence from smartphones, laptops and other devices.
Cummins has given employees flexibility to work remotely indefinitely, which it said has allowed it to retain its workforce and attract new employees.
“When the pandemic hit, Cummins, like many organizations, had to figure out how to adjust and operate within that reality,” said Marvin Boakye, Cummins’ chief human resources officer. “And we are learning a lot about how we operate in this space here.”
Other companies are making similar adjustments.
Rolls-Royce, the aircraft-engine maker with a big local office and manufacturing presence, said it is “embracing hybrid work in the post-pandemic era,” which allows many of its 3,300 workers in Indianapolis to work in the office three days a weeks and two days remotely.
The United Kingdom-based company said it remains committed to downtown Indianapolis and recently signed a 10-year lease at Meridian Center, a complex at 450 W. Henry St. where it leases one building, down from three it occupied before the pandemic.
“The remote part of the hybrid environment means employees can focus intently when they need to, outside of the office, and also offers the work flexibility which employees have really appreciated during their remote work experience,” Candice Bineyard, Rolls-Royce’s director of defense programs, told IBJ.
Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co., one of downtown’s largest employers with about 10,000 workers here, said it plans to continue to require many of its office employees to work from the office at least three days a week, allowing them to work remotely the other days.
“We are confident that we’re on the right path by prioritizing connection while offering workplace flexibility for those whose job requirements support it,” the Indianapolis-based company said in a statement.
Indianapolis-based Elevance Health Inc., the huge health insurer formerly known as Anthem Inc., with more than 5,000 Indiana employees, told IBJ it has been redesigning and reconfiguring its offices to serve as collaboration spaces for greater flexibility, allowing its office staff to continue working on a hybrid work model.
And AES Indiana, the electric utility formerly known as Indianapolis Power & Light Co., which has occupied an office tower on Monument Circle since the 1930s, said it requires its 290 headquarters employees to work in the office about two days a week.
But Kristina Lund, the Arlington, Virginia-based utility’s Indiana president, said she is taking another look at that approach.
“I would expect we’re going to adjust that policy going forward,” she said, “in favor of more togetherness.”•
11 thoughts on “Downtown’s largest employers bet on hybrid work”
Until companies actively get their employees back into the office, the downtown area will continue to deteriorate. All one has to do is to look back in the 1980’s when many of the store fronts were empty, people did not come into the downtown area other than to go to a sporting event or the theater. Then the mall was built, the Chase (Salesforce Tower) was built, the number of restaurants quadrupled over-night, companies more then offices to the downtown area, the sporting events from intramural to professional sports in the stadium downtown had activities each week, the convention business blossumed etc. Now restaurants have left, the mall is empty, stores closed, CVS closed two of the 3 downtown locations (name another city where CVS or similar store closed 66% of their stores whose economy in the downtown area is not spiraling downward), etc. Wake up, until the employers who all received large tax abatements from our local government return to the very offices they received tax abatements, the downtown area will not flourish. You cannot drive and/or revitalize an entire downtown economy off “apartment” dwellers and the “bottle works area”. The solution is easy … the major employers that are currently receiving tax abatements have to fulfill their commitments, otherwise reversing the deterioration will be orders of magnitude more costly and difficult to turnaround the more time corrective action is not taken.
Your comment assumes the employers have the power to bring employees back to the office. They don’t. We’re currently in a time where the employer needs the employee more than the other way around. As long as that persists, ain’t nobody coming back downtown.
Most other major cities are doing okay right now due to the density of residents living there….
You’re suggesting we force employees pointlessly back into the office instead of making downtown vibrant and lives Le?
Until the state creates a commuter tax we should force creation of new downtown places to live – let the suburbs die while we drive downtown investment into itself.
Cincinnati did a wonderful job of this – and is crushing us as a place to live
Cincinnati? Seriously?? Have you been there lately? Ghostown downtown. That is NOT the city indy should try to emulate.
Bad move. Make office workers come back to office. This is otherwise a ridiculous ongoing coddling of an entitled, pampered, spoiled generation. They need to grow up and learn and respect how the real world and business world work. And, would bring downtown back to life. Ridiculous.
Michael G. do you work downtown? Park downtown much? As a person who has worked downtown for the last 5 yrs your statement is a farse. I currently have two remote work days and feel blessed! My employer forced everyone back into the office three days a week. I’ve saved hundreds on gas, less wear and tear on our vehicles, and less stress wasting my time in traffic. With a property desk and computer setup I’m no less effective as an employee.
And Jaron, you could be replaced in the snap of a finger by a new grad who would be glad to work downtown for a good job. You are typical of the entitled generation I described. I worked in and commuted to downtown Indy for 32 years and loved it.
You assume new grads are fighting over the chance to work in downtown Indianapolis.
I’m not a new college grad either but the kids these days, from what I am seeing … definitely value the ability to work remotely, and will head to another employer who will offer them that.
And Indiana is not in a position of employment strength where they can just shrug and hire someone else.
“Hybrid” is a terrible plan. All the negatives of in person and remote… Now everyone needs a home office, and the company still needs a large enough facility for everyone to work in person?
And if you want downtown to be vibrant, you have to build HOUSING there. Tear out these empty offices and put in decent housing downtown.
Downtown needs something like a Target. For all the government subsidies we do … this would be a very valuable one, IMO.
No one has addressed the “elephant in the room”….Downtown Indy is NOT a safe place to be! Need more police presence and quicker justice for those who harm people and damage property.