Wells Fargo, the third-largest employer in downtown Minneapolis, is once again postponing its return to the office, a sign that some companies may begin to shift plans due to the surging omicron variant.

The bank, which had about 7,000 workers downtown before the pandemic, had planned to have employees start coming back to offices in phases starting Jan. 10.

It has not provided a new target date, but said it would communicate plans in the new year.

"Given the changing external environment, we are delaying our return to office plans," the company said in a statement. "We are continuing to closely monitor the environment with the health and wellbeing of our employees as our priority."

Steve Cramer, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, said Wells Fargo is the first downtown employer he's heard of to delay a January return to the office.

"A lot of companies did have January 10 circled on the calendar" for when they planned to bring more employees back, he said. "But I think we have to acknowledge that omicron is a fast-breaking situation so it's almost a day-by-day consideration at this point."

Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Vice President Vicki Stute said two member companies recently announced they are postponing their January return-to-work timeframe. One of the companies is specifically telling workers not to come into the office at all after Jan. 1.

Instead of embracing a hybrid policy "they are going back to the policy of 'If you can work from home, You should work from home,'" Stute said.

Cramer noted that about 40% of downtown workers are back to working in the office, at least part of the time, according to the council's latest survey. While the delta variant knocked down the inflection initially expected after Labor Day, workers have steadily been coming back to offices this year, which he expects will continue into next year.

Some companies are sticking with their return-to-the-office plans for January.

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp, which had about 5,000 workers downtown before the pandemic, began bringing some workers back to the office last month. It plans to bring all employees back starting Jan. 10 in a hybrid model in which workers will still be able to work from home a couple days a week.

As of now, there are no changes to those plans, said U.S. Bank spokesman Jeff Shelman.

Some companies, such as Graco, Ameriprise and Abbott Laboratories, started bringing workers back over the summer. And others, including Richfield-based Best Buy, began having some corporate employees come back in the fall.

Wells Fargo, which is based in San Francisco, has other corporate offices around the Twin Cities and employs about 18,000 people in Minnesota. Many employees, mostly those who work in branches, have already been physically coming into work.

The bank has postponed its return to the office numerous times since the summer as the high number of COVID-19 cases has continued to give some companies pause about bringing employees back to work.

Wells Fargo employees are still welcome to come in to the office on a voluntary basis if they are vaccinated, the company said.

Staff writer Dee DePass contributed to this report.