What Work Looks Like This Summer

How to reset boundaries and get employees excited about the office—plus other insights on finding that post-pandemic groove.

The half-day summer Friday has long been a coveted summer work perk. Particularly in a cold weather climate like ours, where you can count how often you hit the pool or take the boat out between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the act of closing the office at noon once was enough for executives to bask in their people-first work culture. 

But culture is more complicated in a hybrid work world. What’s the value of a “summer Friday” when the office is optional some days, or even every day?  

“There’s something about half-day Fridays that I don’t think will ever die—just the metaphor of it, in helping employees make the most of the short summer we have. It drives engagement,” says Chris Dardis, president of interim solutions at Versique Search and Consulting in Minneapolis. 

Earlier this year, Versique called employees back to the office three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday. Office days have wiggle room now that didn’t exist pre-pandemic: acknowledging that not everyone can get in by 8 a.m., or stay past 4 p.m. because of personal responsibilities. But getting back to a relatively set schedule is intended to reinforce some limits, Dardis says. “Everyone lost boundaries early on [in the pandemic]. One day blended into the next, and we didn’t know when to push away from the computer.” 

Versique’s return-to-office decision has been somewhat divisive when 50 percent of office workers say they would look for a new job if they had to go back to the office full time, according to a recent survey by national talent solutions firm Robert Half. The proportion of office employees ready to quit jumps to 65 percent when you talk specifically to millennials. Indeed, Dardis acknowledges, a few Versique employees chose to move on rather than returning to the office three days a week. 

“For us, this is what works,” Dardis says. “Flexibility with predictability.” 

In a hybrid environment, boundaries and predictability need to be established beyond the office itself, Dardis says, which is why Versique will continue to observe half-day Fridays, even on a day when employees are already working remotely. It’s permission to step away from the computer and let work calls go to voicemail. “That’s how you make sure employees feel seen, heard, and valued,” he says. 

The Versique approach is exactly what Robert Half advises clients to do: Over communicate expectations. 

“It’s hard to unplug,” says Robert Half district president Kyle O’Keefe. “It helps to have direction from leadership. A ‘summer Friday’ policy is one way to do that.”  

Woodbury-based Self Esteem Brands is going beyond half-day Fridays, giving all corporate employees Fridays off all summer. “Work is infinite. If we worked seven days a week, we’d always have more work to do. Once you understand that, you get more rigorous around prioritization and choosing the right work that benefits the most people,” says Chuck Runyon, CEO of Self Esteem Brands, parent company to Anytime Fitness and other wellness brands. “Whether it’s spending more time with kids, aging parents, or joyous hobbies, we want our employees to live a full, rich life.”

Farmers marketAn unexpected benefit of working via Zoom and inviting colleagues into our homes: “Work is just more humane today,” says David Stillman, a Minneapolis-based generational expert and co-author of Gen Z @ Work. “We used to leave our lives at the office door. Now we’re able to integrate more.” That means feeling free to Zoom from a picnic table, or telling your boss you’ll be offline during a child’s baseball game, or working from the cabin on a Monday.

The days of keeping work and personal life separate are over, Stillman says. “Blended is in.”

From blending work with summer fun to (partially) returning to the office, here’s our summer cheat sheet.

light rail stationOn the Move

Metro Transit stats provide some clues about our comings and goings:

  • Bus and light rail rides were up 10% in April 2022 over the year before.
  • Transit to the downtowns is busiest Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The easiest day to get a seat by bus or train is Friday. 
  • Downtown St. Paul shows a slightly higher worker return via transit than downtown Minneapolis. St. Paul is back to 30% to 40% of Metro Transit’s pre-Covid trips; Minneapolis is back to 25% to 30%. 

Staying  Connected

 From the Comcast 2021 WiFi Trends Report: Smartphones comprise more than a third of all connected devices. That’s 23 times more than in 2018.

Music at The Commons
Music at The Commons

Make it an Event

Minneapolis Downtown Council surveys show that Tuesday and Wednesday are the biggest office days, followed by Thursday. That’s why the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board is planning evening concerts and movies at The Commons in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday through Thursday to encourage downtown workers to extend their day. The Minneapolis Farmers Market returns to Nicollet Mall on Thursdays, with additional outdoor pop-ups and entertainment on the third Thursday of each summer month. The St. Paul Downtown Alliance plans free events all summer including Monday evening yoga at Union Depot and 3-D printing classes at George Latimer Central Library.

Read more from this issue

The New Office Uniform

Deconstructed blazerIt’s tough to go back to “hard pants” when you’ve been living with elastic waistbands. Workwear trends show that comfort is still a priority. Hoss Al-Gassid, general manager at MartinPatrick 3, and Veronica Clark, owner of D.Nolo, both in the North Loop, share their top versatile wardrobe updates: 

Deconstructed blazer. It’s softer, a little more casual, and pairs nicely with dressy jeans or chinos.

Drawstring pants. The ultimate hybrid, trousers for men and women in dressy materials are now being shown with a drawstring waist for comfort. “Fabrics and silhouettes are relaxed,” Clark says, “yet you are still pulled together and professional.” (This does not mean you should wear your lived-in joggers to the office, our experts caution.)

office uniform womenButton-downs. A suit may no longer be necessary, but a polo shirt is often too casual, Al-Gassid advises. “Go for a button-down instead. It looks a bit dressier and you can always roll up the sleeves.

Sneakers. No longer reserved for Fridays, fashion sneakers are being shown even with suits.

Prints and color. People are excited to be going out, Clark says, and looking to infuse a bit of optimism and fun into their wardrobe. (Dresses from Grethen House in Edina.)

Finding the Food Trucks

Food truckSpontaneous food truck lunches used to be a rite of downtown office life, but when workers went remote, the food trucks had to find new routes. Many, like Gastrotruck, pivoted to scheduled catering events. But Leah Wong of the Minneapolis Downtown Council says that more than 70 food trucks are registered for permits to park and serve on city streets. Likely hotspots in downtown Minneapolis: near The Commons (425 Portland Ave. S.) or along Marquette Avenue. With so many offices bringing lunch in as a treat for employees, consider ordering ahead. Green + The Grain’s mobile eatery posts its weekly pickup spots online, from Woodbury and Lakeville to Richfield and Maple Grove. Follow your favorites on social media, where many will post their intended location and hours each morning.

pad and pencelBest Outdoor Work Spots

Get out of the house and seize the sunny day, someplace with reliable Wi-Fi and shade to cut screen glare. Mpls.St.Paul Magazine food and dining editor Stephanie March shares some go-to Twin Cities spots that won’t mind you lingering. 

Radisson Red’s OuiBar + Kitchen is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., with a nice patio that (shhh) downtown dwellers have yet to discover. 609 S. Third St., Mpls., radissonhotelsamericas.com

Walker Art Center has a patio overlooking the Minneapolis Sculpture GardenCardamom at the Walker Art Center has a patio overlooking the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and a light, bright indoor café. 725 Vineland Place, Mpls., cardamommpls.com  

Smack Shack’s covered patio is perfect for working. Experience proves that you can bring your laptop and hang there for several hours; you just pay in bottles of wine consumed. 603 N. Washington Ave., Mpls., smack-shack.com

Groundswell has it all: coffee bar, bakery, café, plus beer and wine when you’re ready to power down for happy hour. 1340 Thomas Ave., St. Paul, groundswellmn.com

Bring your best friend to work with you on the dog-friendly patio at City House, right along the river. 258 Mill St., St. Paul, cityhousemn.com

Unmapped Brewing opens at noon during the summer with a great patio. Bring your own food or order delivery from several nearby restaurants. Stick around for trivia
every Monday night at 7:30. 14625 Excelsior Blvd., Minnetonka, unmappedbrewing.com

Three One Six Bar + Grill at Brookview Golf CourseHit a bucket of balls between meetings or take in the views from the patio of Three One Six Bar + Grill at Brookview Golf Course. You’ll find plenty of quiet, shaded tables in reach of Wi-fi and lawn bowling. 316 Brookview Parkway S., Golden Valley, brookviewgolf.com



parking signDowntown Parking Deal 

A monthly parking contract is tough to justify when you’re only going in a couple of days per week. MPLS Parking introduced a reloadable parking card program that lets users park in nine downtown ramps for just $6 per visit. Apply for the card at mplsparking.com/rpc. Note: As of press time, there was a six-week waitlist. 


Staying Connected

Three in five Americans upgraded their Wi-Fi last year; two in five said Wi-Fi is more important to their daily lives than reliable transportation.

Life Time Work offers several outdoor meeting areas at its downtown Minneapolis coworking space.
Life Time Work offers several outdoor meeting areas at its downtown Minneapolis co-working space.

Intentional Togetherness

What used to be simply going to work now has a name like “togetherness days,” which often come with added incentives, such as a recent 3 p.m. crepe station break at the Versique office. When CHS reopened its remodeled Inver Grove Heights headquarters in late 2021 for hybrid work, the company made an event of it, with tours and activities to show off new collaboration areas and technology. “We are more focused on teamwork and working better together,” says Tom Ryan, global director of corporate communications. Colle McVoy’s staff tries to meet at its downtown Minneapolis office on Tuesdays and Thursdays—days that are now earmarked for department meetings as well as special learning and development opportunities and celebrations. The company plans a post-work rooftop concert in July. 

Now that Zeus Jones considers itself digital first, the Minneapolis agency plans company off-sites twice a year (paid for, in part, by subleasing a portion of its office). The first one took place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, chosen for “its rich cross-cultural history,” managing partner Adrian Ho says. The itinerary was packed with hands-on experiences like making ceramics on a pottery wheel and museum visits. Zeus Jones now has an internal “mindset” team to plan future annual events and scout “collaboration locations” as well as impromptu Twin Cities gatherings throughout the year.

Colle McVoy makes the most of its rooftop.
Colle McVoy makes the most of its rooftop.

Waterproof Bluetooth speakerRemote Work Gadgets

Branded notebooks and pens are so 2019. Business is booming, however, for Brooklyn Center-based promotional products company Imprint Engine, thanks to a pandemic shift away from events toward work-from-home gifts that companies are ordering in bulk for employees and clients. Partner Zach Sussman shares what’s trending now. 

Wearable speakersWearable speakers. For biking, hiking, and jogging.

Golf speaker/range finder. Magnetically attaches to a golf cart and tells you the distance to the green, while playing music. 

Waterproof Bluetooth speaker. A summer essential for the pool/lake/boat.

Toadfish mugs. These mugs have a suction technology that makes them untippable, which is especially reassuring when there’s a laptop nearby. Bindle Bottles

Bindle Bottles. These water bottles come with a doggie bowl attached and storage for puppy treats.