Downtown Minneapolis ad agency BD’M shocked its 18 employees by instructing them to take 500 hours—with pay and benefits—between April and August, with only one strict rule: “Follow your dreams. Don’t do nothing,” says Bob Barrie, the agency’s co-owner.
“I thought it would be nice to recharge for a little bit,” says co-owner Stuart D’Rozario, and after several weeks of scribbling ideas and crunching financials, he persuaded Barrie it could work. “We didn’t think of it in terms of ROI,” Barrie says. “We thought of it more in terms of the people who have worked for us so many years and how could we do something really special for them. This seemed to be it.”
Janie Waldron, director of project management, plowed her 500 hours into a landscaping project at her Linden Hills home. “The gift of time was amazing,” she says “Having the time allowed me to realize that I can make the time.”
Barrie says the agency took advantage of a slow period in its business cycle, drawing on strong cash reserves built up since the company’s inception seven years ago, while continuing to serve their existing clients. “No balls were dropped,” he says. D’Rozario readily admits that granting 500 hours of PTO isn’t feasible for large businesses, but for a smaller company like BD’M, “this stuff’s doable.”
For Associate Creative Director Steve Rudasics, it meant taking a break from his weekly commute from Seattle to Minneapolis and being home with his wife and three kids. In August, Rudasics returned to work with video footage of their activities to show that his summer off was more than a vacation to him. “I call it replacing perspiration with inspiration,” he says.
D’Rozario says the 500 hours, some of which he used to write a cookbook called 10 Ways to Cook Squid, wasn’t about time, but about “energy and inspiration—time was an excuse.”