Aug 29, 2022 - Business

Twin Cities PR shop pilots 4-day workweek

Illustration of four to-go coffees that read Mon, Tues, Wed, and Thurs
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A Twin Cities public relations agency is test driving a spin on a four-day workweek.

Driving the news: Media Minefield implemented what leaders are calling a "4-Day Mindset" this month, giving the firm's nearly 50 employees flexibility to fit their work into the equivalent of four days each week.

The big picture: A small but growing number of companies in the U.S. and Canada started testing shorter weeks this year with help from 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit founded in New Zealand in 2018.

  • California lawmakers even considered a bill this year that would make the shorter schedule a requirement for large employers.

Yes, but: While the announcements get a lot of attention, shorter workweeks are nowhere close to becoming the norm, Axios Markets' Emily Peck reported in January.

Why it matters: Supporters argue that cutting the workweek could help alleviate burnout among professionals and boost recruitment and retention of employees.

How it works: The general idea is that employees get their work done in fewer hours, with the same pay as before.

  • Because public relations is a 24/7/365 business, Media Minefield opted to take a looser approach, encouraging employees to set their schedule around their client and team needs, rather than give one set day off a week.

The catch: While the goal is to help staff recharge and find balance between work and life, the days off aren't guaranteed vacation days.

  • Employees are still expected to answer client calls and check email occasionally in case an urgent issue arises, but they don't need to be "tethered" to the computer or sit in meetings during their flex time off, Media Minefield founder Kristi Piehl told Axios.

What they're saying: Piehl said she hopes the leeway leaves employees "restored and more relaxed and more creative because they have this space in their life."

  • "You don't need to explain to anyone if your Slack light goes off at 2," Piehl said. "Get your work done. And live your life."

Behind the pilot: For Piehl, the shift to remote work at the start of the pandemic was a "lightbulb moment" that showed the company could function and grow "without me telling them when they had to work and how they had to work and where they had to work."

  • While Minefield has already brought employees back to its Minnetonka office two days a week, this new experiment is an effort to keep some of that pandemic flexibility intact.

The intrigue: It's to be seen whether client demands or other work needs will regularly eat into the theoretical time to unplug.

  • Piehl said she plans on surveying employees after a few months to see if the pilot is achieving its goal.

What we're hearing: Local business leaders say they haven't heard of many other companies trying this yet.

The bottom line: While formalized four-day schedules remain rare, more flexibility appears here to stay for workers in former "office" professions.

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