Minneapolis ad agency gives employees paid summer off to pursue passions

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Last spring, a Minneapolis-based advertising agency gathered its employees for a stunning announcement: They were being given 500 hours off – paid, with full benefits.

KARE 11’s Boyd Huppert has the story of how the bosses at Barrie, D'Rozario, Murphy told their 18 staffers to take the summer off to pursue their personal passions. Jaws dropped, KARE reported.

“I think people were stunned more than anything else,” Stuart D'Rozario, president and executive creative director, told KARE.

BDM partner and executive creative director Bob Barrie initially thought D’Rozario’s idea of letting the staff off for the summer was crazy, KARE reported. But Barrie’s wife helped bring him around to the concept.

"I said, 'Why do you think we should do it?' And she said, 'Because you can.' And at that moment I realized that was the best reason of all."

Company leaders stressed that they did not close the agency – they worked out arrangements so that clients were still served, even as staffers were taking time off.

Barrie spent much of the summer painting. Other employees threw themselves into playing music, making furniture and pottery, and landscaping. One employee invented a hands-free dog leash; another spent the summer caring for neglected horses at a rescue shelter in Hugo.

Giving employees a paid summer off is highly rare, although companies have experimented with similar concepts. At least a handful of companies that include IBM, Netflix and HubSpot are offering flexible time off – a system that allows people to take unlimited amounts of time away from the office as long as their work gets done, the Omaha World Herald noted in a story earlier this summer.

According to one study, 5 percent of employers are now offering a vacation purchase plan, which allows employees to “buy” or “sell” vacation days through a payroll deduction, ABC News reported.

But overall, most U.S. workers take notably less vacation than workers in other developed nations, CNN reported.

Only 57 percent of U.S. workers use up all of the days they're entitled to, compared with 89 percent of workers in France, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found in 2010.

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