When pulling together the results of our 2020 Leaders Survey, I was not surprised to see that answers were in some ways quite different from last year. This year has simply been an outlier. 

Our annual survey asks business leaders to share what they feel are some of the top issues affecting business in Central Iowa, and in particular the Greater Des Moines region. As you read, you’ll see the responses and also select remarks from differing viewpoints from those who opted to leave comments as they took the survey. 

This year’s guest editor has also provided analysis of the results and the uncertainty many have about a variety of issues. Claudia Schabel is the president of Schabel Solutions, a consulting firm that offers strategic solutions on how to build inclusive workplaces to attract and retain talent. She leads many efforts to help businesses and community organizations embrace equity. We’d like to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to provide excellent insight. 

We hope you find these answers thought-provoking. Enjoy!

— Emily Barske, associate editor 


Meet our guest editor

Claudia Schabel is the founder, president and CEO of Schabel Solutions, a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategic partner with over 25 years of DEI, AA/EEO and human resources practitioner experience. Before founding the company in 2016, Schabel was organizational vibrancy champion at Dupont Pioneer (now Corteva) and diversity analyst at Principal Financial Group. 

After growing up in Brazil and living and working in Japan, Schabel moved to the United States and earned a BA in international relations at Drake University. 

Always volunteering, Schabel is now a commissioner on the Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission and serves on the Iowa Society for Human Resource Management State Council as the director of diversity. A 15-year volunteer for and past chair of the Greater Des Moines Partnership Diversity Council, she was the recipient of a 2008 Forty Under 40 Business Record Award, the 2010 Robert D. Ray Iowa Latino Ambassador Award and the 2014 Iowa International Center Passport to Prosperity Award.

Schabel and her spouse of 16 years, Brad Schabel, the company’s COO, have resided in the downtown Des Moines area for 20 years. Their always playful English golden retriever, Stormy, runs the household.


A note from Schabel

Respondents were primarily from large to medium-sized businesses, along with a sprinkling of nonprofit leaders. This is important to note as you review the statistics. 

As a small business owner, I was very happy to see that many respondents were thinking of us in their answers. On behalf of many small businesses, thank you for keeping us in your hearts, minds and plans.


Rate the overall health of the Central Iowa business community. (Scale of 1-10, 1 being weakest)

Guest Editor Claudia Schabel: The 2020 average rating of 6.82 was a point lower than the previous 4-5 year average. Given the year we’ve had in 2020, this rating shows that we have, by and large, shown a considerable amount of resiliency in the face of some very strong headwinds. Yes, there has been and will continue to be some pain felt by a number of industries, but by and large, the metro area’s diverse mix of industries — some of the larger ones being somewhat recession-proof — and support systems have served the majority of its businesses well in very challenging times.  

In addition to the PPP, state and local efforts to prop up brick and mortar small businesses seem to have helped many organizations stay afloat in the initial stages of the pandemic. People are going back to work – but not necessarily in person. Overall metro unemployment reached 4.7% as of September after reaching a high 11.8% in April. I am very curious to see updated metro-area unemployment rates and small business survival rates broken down by demographic group as well as industry at year’s end. I assume it’s not a good story.

10 “Most businesses we know have reopened, leading to strength in the labor market; retail sales have been strong, albeit with a different mix of winners and losers.”

Stephen Caspar, chief operations officer, HR Hotline Associates

8 “While there are certainly businesses in the community that have been impacted, there are others that haven't. As business leaders we need to do whatever we can to help our fellow members. Reach out and support the local businesses whenever you can. They aren't asking for a handout, but they are asking for your business.”

Todd McDonald, president, ATW Training Solutions

8 “Major businesses appear to be succeeding even at this time. The service industry is taking a serious hit, but that is a result of current issues; it is not a sign of permanency.”

David Kilpatrick, executive director, Des Moines Community Theatre

7 “The core businesses of insurance and banking have adapted well to the current pandemic.”

A.J. Johnson, city manager, city of Urbandale

7 “It seems the largest companies had the resources and planning in place to move to a remote workforce. Our own organization has been able to adapt well. However, I am hearing from small business owners that they are struggling, especially those that operate in events or retail space.”

Jaimie Miller, executive director, Iowa Credit Union Foundation

7 “Difficult to truly know. Lots of stimulus money in the economy that could be masking larger problems. Some industries are thriving, while others are barely surviving.”

Tony Dickinson, president, finance corporation, NCMIC

6 “While certain industries have clearly been impacted by COVID, most of our clients remain financially strong.”

Kim Butler Hegedus, executive vice president, Community State Bank

6 “2020 has been a year that none of us could have predicted. Heading into the COVID-19 pandemic, the DSM region was in a position of strength as a Midwest leader in population, job and GDP growth, and a long list of top national rankings. Overall, our region has done a remarkable job pivoting under very challenging circumstances and learning how to navigate COVID-19 in a safe, smart and collaborative way. Certain industries such as hospitality, entertainment and others have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. At the same time, many other industries continue to thrive. Iowa’s unemployment rate rose to 11% in April, but dropped back down to 4.7% in September. A large number of economic development, transportation and infrastructure, housing, and quality of life projects have continued to advance. Hotel occupancy rates have improved and Des Moines International Airport, which had seen record enplanements before the pandemic, has seen passenger traffic start to rebound. While our short-term future is still somewhat uncertain, our community has faced challenges before and has come out the other side stronger, and we are well positioned to do that again.”

Jay Byers, CEO, Greater Des Moines Partnership 

5 “Central Iowa businesses are adapting and pivoting to meet the demands of the pandemic-era economy. It's a chance for companies and leaders to pause, reflect and adapt. Adapting business with digital approaches – especially digital marketing – is becoming more important, and businesses who embrace the digital economy and share their story well will pivot faster than those who don't.”

Mackenzie Walters, owner and chief storytelling officer, M Ryan Media

5 “Overall health of the Central Iowa business community is mixed. Some businesses are thriving. Many are struggling for survival. Others in various stages of transition.”

Rowena Crosbie, president, Tero International

5 “It is an interesting mix of foundational strength while knowing we need to work to become innovative, diverse and transform through the skills of a whole new generation of leaders.”

Kevin Schlueter, owner, WPA

5 “There is a false sense of security right now. People cannot work at home forever and remain engaged and productive. We need more people back in our office spaces, collaborating face-to-face, enjoying some off-work-hours time together, and remembering how important real relationships and in-person contact are to business health. Businesses who aren't yet feeling the negative impacts of being constantly apart from each other are on a timeline. It won't last.” 

Jessica Dunker, president and CEO, Iowa Restaurant Association 

4 “The pandemic has been devastating and there are too many unknowns to even begin to articulate what the new normal will look like, let alone position for it.”

Loren Bawn, operations manager, Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services

4 “Due to COVID-19, many businesses have closed or reduced hours and services. Employers in some industries (bars and restaurants) are having trouble finding quality employees.”

Boyd Bauer, senior relationship manager, Heartland



The biggest issue facing Iowa businesses right now is _______.


Guest Editor Claudia Schabel: Respondents provided some consistent themes. Successfully managing a business with the ongoing proliferation of uncertainties related to the pandemic, economy overall and political landscapes were frequently noted as the biggest issues facing Iowa businesses right now. Secondary themes were relative high state taxation, concerns about all-day/every-workday remote work and difficulties finding the right talent to fill open positions. 

“Recovering from COVID and the deployment of the workforce.”

Kevin Crowley, commercial sales manager, NAI Iowa Realty Commercial


“Adapting to the new workplace and how it will affect the support services built to serve their previous environment.”

A.J. Johnson, city manager, city of Urbandale


“A significant slice of the Central Iowa labor pool is struggling financially. They are overshadowed by the slice that is doing as well or better than they were mid-March. Unless we quickly find a solution, we stand to lose our service workforce to out-migration or to permanent emotional despair.”

Eric Burmeister, executive director, Polk County Housing Trust Fund


“Uncertainty of when the right time to bring back employees, or if to bring back employees, to physical space and all that goes along with it — managing protocols while also doing best to maintain culture and employee morale.”

Shannon Cofield, president, MercyOne Des Moines Foundation


“How they are addressing racial equity.”

Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, CEO, Proteus Inc. 


“Filling open employment positions, which is holding growth back.”

Matt Converse, president, Converse Conditioned Air Inc. 


“The biggest issue facing Iowa businesses right now is planning for the unknown while playing the cards we are dealt. Most of us are conditioned to think and lead in terms of strategic plans with the benefit of budget and revenue trends, objectives, key performance indicators and predictable timelines. However, the current situation calls for creating something more akin to a living document, using scenario-planning to try to anticipate the unexpected and making decisions in rapidly changing situations as best we can. Scenario-planning is basically identifying a specific set of uncertainties — for example, a pandemic — and considering the potential business impact and options. It helps to think of scenarios as different hands of cards we might be dealt, and think of strategies as the way we would play those cards.”

Diana Deibler, president, Deibler & Co. 


“Ensuring younger workers have job and networking opportunities in a remote workforce.”

Wendy Current, vice president, training and development officer, Ames National Corp.


“Lack of staff.”

Susan Martin, chief operating officer of Optimae Services, Optimae LifeServices


“Regionalization. To tackle any of the problems in front of us — water quality, economic recovery, resiliency — we must do so as a region and at a level we haven’t seen before. This will take unprecedented collaboration and require our community to think bigger.”

Hannah Inman, CEO, Great Outdoors Foundation


“A shortage of workers.”

David L. Bert, real estate broker, David L. Bert Real Estate


“Uncertainty in the political landscape (which is probably going to be resolved with a new order of leadership in two-thirds of the federal government) and the pandemic – society doesn't approach anything close to normal until individuals are confident that the pandemic can be managed through treatments and/or effectively eliminated via vaccines.”

Eric Lohmeier, president, NCP Inc.


“Reliable high-speed internet in a competitive environment.”

Natalie Bachman, director, strategic sales operations, Wellmark Inc. 


“Continuing to grow and retain quality employees.”

Jason Van Engen, sales professional, Brilar


“Inability to stay open and plan ahead. Too many stops and starts.”

Chris Riedel King, senior project/marketing consultant, Principal Financial Group


“There is no single biggest issue, in my opinion, because there are so many monumental issues that are intertwined – a global pandemic, a vicious political cycle where civility and decorum are absent, a challenging economy, climate change/natural disasters and unprecedented (at least in recent years) racial tensions all come to mind.”

Chris Sackett, managing partner, BrownWinick Law Firm


“Division just like the whole country.”

Tracy Schmidt, vice president and general manager of card services, NCMIC Finance Corp.


“The lack of leadership on the path forward is hurting the ability of business owners to have some certainty in a time of uncertainty.”

Jake Christensen, president, Christensen Development


“The biggest issue facing Iowa businesses right now is trying to anticipate which pandemic-related changes will remain and how to plan and invest accordingly. For example, since March Bankers Trust has seen significant increases in the use of technology by our customers — internet and mobile banking, bill pay, and online account openings. Yet with any big swing in consumer behavior due to an outside influence, in this case COVID-19, it’s challenging to know whether we’re dealing with an anomaly, a trend or a whole new way of doing business that merits significant investments. Thankfully, market and industry data have informed our investments in technology while continuing to ensure customers have access to in-person and drive-up support, when needed.”

Emily Abbas, senior vice president, chief consumer banking and marketing officer, Bankers Trust


On average, how many hours per week are you working?

Guest Editor Claudia Schabel: The average was 50, which is one less hour than in 2019, which might or might not be attributed to one less hour spent in the car each day. Given the year we’ve had and the resiliency exhibited, this is impressive. I am pleasantly surprised. 


How stressed are you feeling at work? (Scale of 1-10, 1 being not very stressed)
(Note: While a few outliers contributed to the weighted average for 2020, the most common answer was a 7, with 27.45% selecting it.)

Guest Editor Claudia Schabel: While the average level of stress matched that of 2019 (just below 6), the most common answer was 7. This does not surprise me given the uncertainties of the pandemic, economy, political situation, impacts of closed schools on parents and other happenings often beyond your control. A number of respondents mentioned that they are very good at managing stress – it’s required to function well in this environment and, to an extent, is expected given the responsibilities tied to leadership roles. One respondent wrote about being “radically intentional about partaking in de-stressing activities.” 


1 “MGP and me personally have all kinds of challenges, but I am radically intentional about partaking in de-stressing activities. I have a great support system at home. I do a morning devotional. I try to sleep seven hours per night. I have a regimented daily exercise routine. I read and pray and journal at night. I unplug to be ‘present’ for family time. We take family walks.”

John Mickelson, managing partner, Midwest Growth Partners


2 “Our firm has supported a remote work infrastructure for years, so the transition to total remote work during the early stages of the pandemic was a relatively smooth process. The ease of transition and ongoing infrastructure support has kept our work stress minimized. Our focus has now shifted to safely returning to in-person client/employee interactions. Public accounting is built on an apprenticeship model that requires daily training, mentoring and development, and that experience is enhanced with in-person, real-time interactions.”

Rod Foster, partner, RSM US LLP


3 “My employer has been incredibly supportive during the pandemic.”

Jennifer Pavlovec, director of finance, ChildServe

6 “Stress level stays the same, stressors change. As business leaders we have to self-care for our own personal management.”
Matt Converse, president, Converse Conditioned Air Inc.

6 “To the extent that I'm feeling stress, it's mainly related to the uncertainties in the economy and markets.”

Jim Plagge, CEO, Bank Iowa 


7 “I run a nonprofit organization, and am concerned about constricting philanthropic support.”

Emily Westergaard, CEO, By Degrees Foundation


7 “I work in the field of health care, so more stressed than many other fields, and in the midst of a major fundraising campaign that paused for four months.”

Shannon Cofield, president, MercyOne Des Moines Foundation


8 “Our business remains strong, but softness in certain market segments and a hardening insurance marketplace could create rough waters in the coming 12-24 months.”

Jed Gammell, vice president of insurance and financial services, Lincoln Savings Bank


8 “Knowing that things could change very quickly from positive to negative in the economy is a stress.”

Mona Bond, president, Capitol Communications Inc.


8 “Part of my stress is in normal work-related issues, and part is the unknown of the pandemic. We are a lean, flat organization creating cross training of our employees to withstand an outbreak in our office.”

Bryan Myers, senior vice president, Neumann Brothers


9 “As a business owner I feel responsible for our customers and employees. When our customers are struggling, we feel for them and want to do everything we can to support them, not because they do business with us, but because we care. And with employees we have a responsibility to provide a safe and stable work environment.”

Todd McDonald, president, ATW Training Solutions

Agree or disagree:

Greater Des Moines’ economy is better off than regions of similar size around the country.


Agree. “Pre-COVID-19, the region was in a position of strength, and we are well positioned for growth and recovery. For the past decade, we have outgrown most other major Midwest metros in terms of percentage of population growth, GDP growth and job growth. In recent months, our region’s unemployment rate continues to improve, and Iowa now has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the country. The latest third-party rankings show we are well positioned for a strong recovery. Moody’s Analytics named us among the U.S. cities best positioned to bounce back from the pandemic, Business Insider named us a top 10 best city to live in after the pandemic, and Chief Executive magazine researchers and writers said DSM is positioned to have ‘dynamic growth.’ ”

Jay Byers, CEO, Greater Des Moines Partnership

Agree. “The combination of national tech, finance and insurance workflow plus a large portion of essential manufacturer workers compared to regions relying on tourism and leisure industries.”

Todd Kielkopf, president, Kielkopf Advisory Services

Agree. “Among other reasons, data indicates in Greater DSM cost of living is lower, personal income is higher, cultural attractions are more numerous.

Mike Ralston, president, Iowa Association of Business and Industry

Agree. “Diversification of industries; we tend not to go as high in boom times and don't fall as much in recessions.”

Jeff Russell, CEO, Delta Dental of Iowa 

Agree. “Greater Des Moines is better off than regions of similar size across the country because of our mix of industries, population growth momentum, and the collaborative management of our community’s resources. Central Iowa is home to a diverse range of businesses — financial services, technology, health care, agriculture, and the list goes on. We are fortunate our economy is not heavily concentrated in just one area. By percentage, prior to the pandemic DSM was growing faster on the population side than our Midwest peers, and that momentum could make a big difference. We also have the advantage of being a collaborative community thanks in part to the Greater Des Moines Partnership, United Way of Central Iowa, the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, and the many nonprofits and public-private partnerships that work together to address the most pressing needs of all Central Iowans.”

Emily Abbas, senior vice president, chief consumer banking and marketing officer, Bankers Trust

Disagree. “Spending is still up but down. Unemployment is high. Based on the business environment, employment and growth we are about 25 out of 50 states. Middle of the pack.”

Kimberly Baeth, president, Golden Openings Inc.


Agree or disagree: 
Developers should be required to have an affordable housing component to receive public tax incentives.

Guest Editor Claudia Schabel: The rate of agreement with this statement declined compared to 2019 responses. Affordable, and quality, housing for many remains a problem and it’s been prevalent for generations. The painful discriminatory history of redlining has had a long-term negative impact on housing options and wealth in many in our communities. Addressing such structural barriers to equitable housing will require structural remedies. The devil will be in the details and it’s something worth looking at as part of a broad-based effort to reduce the racial wealth gap, for example, while keeping in mind unintended consequences of any mandates.

Agree. “Developers can provide affordable housing if the city of Des Moines changes its restrictions.”

Ted Grob, president, Savannah Homes Inc. 

Agree. “Requirements around public tax incentives signal to others, in this case developers, what a community needs and values. In this case, it’s a step in the right direction to have an affordable housing component to receive public tax incentives – but let’s not stop there. For example, let’s reward those who provide housing along DART’s transit routes and encourage communities to be more intentional in their planning and providing the mix of housing that aligns with the jobs and incomes their community provides.”

Lauren Johnson, director of communications and community outreach, Polk County Housing Trust Fund

Agree. “At the lowest end of affordability – not just low to moderate income levels. With nearly 40% of our community's renters cost burdened (paying more than 30% of their income on housing), creating pathways and access to more affordable units will be key to meeting the housing needs of those individuals on the lower end of the income scale.”

Teree Caldwell-Johnson, CEO, Oakridge Neighborhood

Agree. “I'm not sure about the mechanism – perhaps affordable projects could offset purely market rate projects – but there are going to potentially be some big transitions in real estate, as companies adapt to work-from-home pressures. This could lead to interesting opportunities to create integrated living.”

Matthew McIver, artistic director, Iowa Stage Theatre Company

Agree. “The biggest impact that we can have with local control is to "average" affordable units within projects to spread the subsidy needed to create affordable units.”

Jake Christensen, president, Christensen Development

I’m not sure. “Each individual community should make decisions based on the economy/jobs and opportunities in their city/town. They should determine what type of housing is needed and have input into the public tax incentives. Many areas are in deficit and some have more than needed. There is a balance that should have local input.”

Mona Bond, president, Capitol Communications Inc.

I’m not sure. “Affordable housing is a great idea. However, I think requiring it negates the financial incentives of the tax incentives themselves. Also, if you look at national averages, housing in Central Iowa is extremely affordable. Finally, developers bring jobs, housing, retail, restaurants, resources, and entertainment to our region. We should allow them to do so.”

John Cutler, partner, Cutler Law Firm PC

Disagree. “I believe the market should dictate. The major issue I see is how to handle that group of renters that have criminal records and those that do not have an appropriate credit history. Our low-income portfolio is not 100% occupied, and those two issues have the largest impact.”

Rick Tollakson, CEO, Hubbell Realty Co.

Disagree. “Various public tax incentives promote development, redevelopment and support market growth. Incentives already exist (affordable housing credits) for affordable housing.”

Jed Gammell, vice president of insurance and financial services, Lincoln Savings Bank

Agree or Disagree:

Downtown small businesses and commercial real estate will suffer if most businesses continue offering remote working to their employees post-pandemic.

Guest Editor Claudia Schabel: The majority agrees. Certainly, commercial real estate would suffer. It’s likely that remote work will become a long-term reality for many more employees than in the past once the pandemic ends. For small businesses generally, it depends upon the type of services they offer. Restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues, for example, have generated a lot of revenue from the downtown worker population. The growth in downtown’s living population may offset some of the losses stemming from remote work – and many of those working remotely also live downtown. But it’s still likely that some fairly stable restaurants will fold – the margins are low and the pandemic, now spiking, has exposed how fragile those businesses are. On the other hand, professional services businesses located downtown may do fine in the new environment – lots of this work can be done virtually, as I have learned myself.

Agree. “This isn't a theory – these industries in the central business district are in for a very long road to recovery.”

Eric Lohmeier, president, NCP Inc.


Agree. “If the downtown daytime population is cut by 1/2 or 2/3 as some leaders have predicted, that will have a significant impact on the support retail that serves the daytime population. It could also result in fewer people moving downtown, as there is a flight to larger residential spaces and less reliance on reducing commute times. I'm concerned about a downtown that looks like Des Moines circa 1995.”

Adam Kaduce, senior vice president, R&R Realty Group


Agree. “The downtown office and retail environment had good momentum coming into 2020 with new housing and other amenities following that momentum. If you remove a portion of those employees, the services that rely on their business will struggle. You will also see less desire for people to live downtown if they are not working there.”

Tyler Dingel, senior vice president, CBRE|Hubbell


Agree. “The business community relied on noontime commerce, as well as the work culture that promoted entertainment.”

Carol Olson, state director, United States Senate - U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley


Agree. “I agree that downtown businesses and real estate may suffer from a prolonged or permanent remote work policy. It will be temporary suffering, though. Those downtown businesses will find a way to reinvent the downtown experience to the advantage of the business, the city and the resident.”

Daniel McCraine, president, McCraine Associates Inc.


Agree. “Already happening.”

Shannon Cofield, president, MercyOne Des Moines Foundation


I’m not sure. “The effects of remote work will be wide-ranging, and their impact on small business and commercial real estate slow and painful.”

Teree Caldwell-Johnson, CEO, Oakridge Neighborhood


I’m not sure. “Our entertainment scene isn't just dependent upon the lunch crowd and shows growth for weekend activities such as races, farmers market, fine dining, theaters and breweries.”

Tej Dhawan, “responding as self” 


I’m not sure. “We must adapt to change. Maybe housing downtown continues to be strong, and small business finds a toehold for the increased population and business thrives in a new way.”

Bryan Myers, senior vice president, Neumann Brothers


Disagree. “Many times the availability of space will cause a new startup business.”

Keith Welling, president and CEO, Trubank

Agree or disagree: 
The growing number of Amazon facilities in Central Iowa will help local businesses.

Agree. “More jobs, the better the economy.”
Randal Walters, owner, TenBears LC

Agree. “Consumers and businesses are going to use Amazon regardless of the location of their facilities. We might as well have the facilities locally.”
Jim Plagge, CEO, Bank Iowa 

I’m not sure. “The impact of online shopping on the traditional retail sector has already led to many closures. I like Amazon but wonder about the longer-term impacts on the retail sector overall.”
Teree Caldwell-Johnson, CEO, Oakridge Neighborhood

I’m not sure. “Probably both help and hurt – some will adapt and some won't.”
Jeff Russell, CEO, Delta Dental of Iowa 

Disagree. “I do not want Amazon taking over the world. I am a ‘support small and local business fan.’ ”
Kimberly Baeth, president, Golden Openings Inc.

Disagree. “Amazon is too big and competes too strongly with small businesses.”
Carol Olson, state director, United States Senate - U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley

Agree or disagree:

Greater Des Moines is doing enough as a region to address climate change.

Guest Editor Claudia Schabel: On balance, respondents who know what the metro is doing don’t think we are doing enough to address climate change/global warming. This aligns with an April 2020 Pew study stating that two-thirds of U.S. adults think the federal government is not doing enough to reduce the effects of global climate change. While Des Moines has been proactive recently on this existential topic, the metro should do more to educate citizens about the ramifications of global warming and the ways, such as Des Moines’ sustainability program, in which the metro is doing its part to mitigate the problem. Overall, we can always be doing more for the generations to come. And we should.


Agree. “Climate change agendas as generally presented will increase poverty and severely reduce national income, severely impacting minority communities by reducing economic opportunity.”

Stephen Caspar, chief operating officer, HR Hotline Associates

Agree. “Climate change on a local level is microclimate change. We have wonderful parks, we have lots of green space and bike trails; each of these creates a microclimate.”

Bryan Myers, senior vice president, Neumann Brothers

Disagree. “We can certainly do more to promote sustainability in our region and state. We must continue to embrace and expand wind energy, solar and biofuels. We must continue to improve public transportation, make our communities even more walkable and bikeable, and support sustainable development and redevelopment strategies. We must improve soil health and water quality statewide by enacting Invest in Iowa/IWILL.”

Jay Byers, CEO, Greater Des Moines Partnership

Disagree. “Our water quality is terrible. We need to do more to address our water. Also, it would be great if we had more ways/opportunities to recycle or even compost!”

Jaimie Miller, executive director, Iowa Credit Union Foundation

Disagree. “What unified efforts are there right now?”

Alan Feirer, owner, consultant and trainer, Group Dynamic

Disagree. “We are not even talking about it.”

Hannah Inman, CEO, Great Outdoors Foundation

Disagree. “We are too reliant on cars. While much improved, it is still not safe to bike around town.”

Brendan Comito, chief operating officer, Capital City Fruit Co.

Agree or disagree: 

Remote working (for industries where it's possible) increases employee productivity.



Guest Editor Claudia Schabel: The jury is still out on this topic. One respondent wrote that “Individual, short-term, task-oriented work is seeing an increase in productivity in many cases. Collaborative, creative, long-term strategic work is negatively impacted by remote work.” Another responded that “It depends on the worker, home setting and type of work and largely on the quality of the support provided by the employer.” My sense is that different organizations and different people with different roles need different workplaces and means of completing work to be effective. Some people are more productive at home and some aren’t. For people with distractions and limited internet access at home, it’s been rough. 

Working from home has provided many people with more freedom to be completely themselves while working (apart from when on Zoom calls) for the first time in their lives. They don’t feel the need to put on a mask at work to “fit in.” I wonder how that newfound feeling has impacted their engagement and productivity levels.

Agree. “If there's child care available for those with children at home, I do think it makes employees more productive. If workers are isolated and alone, that may not be the case. I do more now in one day than I did six months ago.”

Suzanne Behnke, executive director, Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism - IowaWatch.org

Agree. “Remote work removes some distractions that professionals would experience in the office from others at home. Right now with in-home virtual schooling, I believe the distractions are negatively affecting productivity in homes with children. This seems to be adjusting, however, and more are going back to school full time soon. Long-term, where managed appropriately, work-life balance and productivity should be improved through remote work.”

Nick Roach, director of sales, Paragon IT Professionals

Agree. “I'm loving working from home. I get more done professionally and personally.”

Emily Westergaard, CEO, By Degrees Foundation

Agree. “Agree, with some caveats: A) It is balanced. I think having one or two days in the office and three or four remote could be ideal. B) Home environment is good for the person doing the work. If you are in a house where there is no separate office space and younger children are at home, that may or may not be the most productive.”

David J Gion, vice president, Integrated Telehealth Partners

Agree. “The option to work where it makes the most sense for the employer/employee increases employee productivity, whether that is at home or in the office.”

Sophia S. Ahmad, senior director, MercyOne Des Moines Foundation

I’m not sure. "It is individualized. People are one of a kind. Generalizations are not really accurate.”

David Kilpatrick, executive director, Des Moines Community Theatre

I’m not sure. “I think in some cases remote working can increase productivity. I imagine it is based on the nature of work and the culture of the company.”

Jaimie Miller, executive director, Iowa Credit Union Foundation

I’m not sure. “Remote working works well for some associates and some work activities but not well for others. The remote working environment can be challenging, as well as the difficulty to collaborate.”

Rick Tollakson, CEO, Hubbell Realty Co.

I’m not sure. “Individual, short-term, task-oriented work is seeing an increase in productivity in many cases. Collaborative, creative, long-term strategic work is negatively impacted by remote work. Chronic levels of grief and stress due to pandemic are taking a heavy toll on employees and their families.”

Rowena Crosbie, president, Tero International

I’m not sure. “It depends on the person and the position. Productivity is a very individual factor.”

Chris Riedel King, senior project/marketing consultant, Principal Financial Group

I’m not sure. “Our team has been effectively working mostly remote. Part of this is because they are a great team. Part is because we had made efforts to build the team pre-COVID and continue efforts to maintain contact. Still, it does not replace in-person interaction in the long run. While important for flexibility and to accommodate employee needs, I look forward to the day when we can meet in person again.”

Lori Chesser, senior shareholder and chair, immigration department, Davis Brown Law Firm

Disagree. “Negatively impacts collaboration.”

Matt Converse, president, Converse Conditioned Air Inc.

Disagree. “It vastly reduces collaboration, and I think home offers many more distractions.”

Brendan Comito, chief operating officer, Capital City Fruit Co.

Disagree. “I think it decreases to a degree. Probably 10% or more. Some people will find a way to not be accounted for at all levels.”

Rick Vernon, vice president, Vernon Co.