Rocket employees to begin return next month under hybrid model

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Rocket Companies Inc.'s employees in Detroit will begin returning to work downtown June 7 and the weeks to follow under a hybrid workplace model, the mortgage giant said Tuesday.

Rocket employs about 19,000 people in the city. More than a year ago, the city's largest employer sent its employees home to work remotely as COVID-19 cases appeared in Michigan and along with them, spending dollars and other activity. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is lifting orders requiring remote work starting next week.

Rocket Companies Inc. will begin recalling its 19,000 employees to offices in downtown Detroit after 15 months of remote work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The parent of Rocket Mortgage's Quicken Loans LLC, title insurer Amrock LLC and automotive retail marketplace Rocket Auto will join other corporations, including the Detroit Three automakers, in allowing for in-person and remote work when employees return — at least at first.

"Over the past 15 months, Rocket Companies learned that our organization can be incredibly effective, set records and provide industry-leading client service — all while having the flexibility that comes with working remotely," Rocket CEO Jay Farner said in a statement. "We are pairing these lessons with the enhanced collaboration, innovation and relationship building that comes with being in person."

A housing market boom last year led Rocket, America's largest mortgage lender, to record financial results in 2020 and nearly $9.4 billion profit.

Employees who said they would work more effectively in the office will return first. Most will be working two to three days in-person each week, the company said. The company's remaining roughly 5,000 employees on June 21 will start to be recalled in Cleveland; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Phoenix.

Crosstown rival United Wholesale Mortgage Holdings Corp. also will begin recalling its workforce in June, the Pontiac-based mortgage lender said Tuesday. Its nearly 9,000 employees are expected to return to full in-person work over five weeks starting June 14.

News of the returning workers to Detroit was good news for several downtown businesses that rely on their traffic.

"With the general public, it's really hard to tell," said Maresha Quirles, assistant manager at Kwench Juice Cafe downtown, noting April and the start of May have been slower than March. "We've been doing the best we can. We've been hearing that they'll return in about a month or so. We hope it will help business increase a lot."

With the 50% state-ordered capacity limitation, The Dime Store's eight tables are often full, with waits up to three hours. Still, co-owner Larry Kahn welcomes the return.

"For most restaurants, you have a number, it might be 10, 50, 100 people based on the size of your restaurant," he said. "It kind of doesn’t matter if there is 20 people waiting or one person.

"We've been busy, though I can’t say anybody is making money. At least the capacity is full."

The biggest difference-maker would be the ability to add a few more seats, Kahn said.

"If we could open up more tables, even a 25% increase," he said, "that would be even bigger than Rocket coming back."

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble