Jason Fried: Move cities, keep your job
Jason Fried is the co-founder of Basecamp (formerly 37signals), a Chicago-based company he launched in 1999 with Ernest Kim and Carlos Segura. Starting as a web design firm, the company moved away from consulting work to web application development. Basecamp was 37signals’ first commercial application, launched in 2004 with his partner David Heinemeier Hansson. « That's our philosophy: Build what we like, and other people will like it too. »
Famous for his now legendary presentation entitled «Why work doesn’t happen at work», TED speaker Jason Fried is also the co-author of several books, including New York Time’s best sellers « Rework », published in 2010, and « Remote: Office Not Required » launched in 2013, debating the benefits of remote working. « What a company, a charity, or organizations of any kind typically do is that they decide that all these people need to come together and be in one place to do that work. So most people have to go to an office everyday, » explains Fried. « These companies build offices. They go out and they buy a building, they rent a building, or they rent some space and they fill the space with stuff. They fill it with tables or desks, chairs, computer equipment, software, internet access, maybe a fridge, maybe a few other things. And they expect their employees or their volunteers to come to that location everyday to do great work. It seems perfectly reasonable to ask that of people » adds the bestseller author before concluding: « Businesses are spending all this money on a place called ‘the office’, and they’re making people go to it all the time. But people don’t do work in the office. »
According to Fried, because of meetings, interruptions and all kinds of distractions, people prefer to work at home, in a plane, a train, late at night, early in the morning or on weekends. People only have short periods of time to get things done. « Sleep and work are stage-based events. Sleep is about sleep phases. There are 5 of them. If you’re interrupted, you have to start again. So why do we expect people to work well if they’ve been interrupted all day at the office? How can we possibly expect people to do their job if they’re constantly interrupted? At the office, most of the distractions are involuntary. Today, Facebook and Twitter are not interruptions. All those things are just modern-day smoke breaks. These are not the real problem in offices. » The real problems in our modern offices today are what Fried likes to call the M&Ms: The managers and the meetings. « Managers are people whose job is basically to interrupt people. They keep interrupting you at all the wrong times. And meetings are just toxic, terrible, and poisonous things during a day at work. It is an incredibly interruptive thing to do to people. »
Fried decided to build a mostly-remote company with about 50 employees spread out across 30 cities around the world. « While we’re mostly based all over the US, we also have people in Canada, the UK, Spain, Germany, Hong Kong and Australia. Move cities, keep your job. » According to Jason Fried, working remotely would increase not only productivity, efficiency, creativity, autonomy, focus but also innovation. Going remote would allow the most talented of people to produce the best work regardless of their location. « As we encourage people to work from anywhere in the world, twice a year — once in the spring and once in the fall — we fly everyone into our headquarters in Chicago for a full-company meetup. The meetups last a full week, Monday through to Friday. » Basecamp’s chief executive, Jason Fried provides a blueprint to change our work habits and is constantly thinking of ways to improve the life of his employees. « We consider our company to be a product too. When you begin to think of your company as a product, you can begin to improve it in entirely new ways. » Basecamp not only offers 3 weeks of paid vacation and a few extra personal days, but also sets up outwork activities in order to favor creativity.
Condemning traditional corporate office culture and its « under one roof » model of work, Jason Fried doesn’t believe in the 40-hour workweeks and the fact of being confined somewhere for a certain number of hours. « I have no idea how many hours my employees work. I just know they get the work done. » wrote Jason Fried in his Inc.’s Get Real column, also mentioning that creative people need unstructured time to get their work done. « I hate it when businesses treat their employees like children. They block Facebook or YouTube because they want their employees to work eight hours a day. But instead of getting more productivity, you’re getting frustration. What’s the point? As long as the work gets done, I don’t care what people do all day. »
Entrepreneur Jason Fried believes there is real value and beauty in the basics. Thus, he decided to trust his employees by applying a very modern vision of a work environment and of what a company can offer to its employees. Basecamp benefits monitor industry salaries annually to make sure that they are paying their employees in the top 5%, 4-day Summer Work Weeks from May to August, $100/month Fitness Allowance, $100/month Massage Allowance, One-Month Sabbatical every three years, Paid Parental Leave, Health & Dental Insurance, among other benefits. Because friends and family matter, Fried also wants to help restore work-life balance. « We don’t want people working more than 40 hours a week in any sustained fashion (we even built in a “Work Can Wait” feature in Basecamp 3 which turns Basecamp notifications off after work hours and on weekends). In a crisis, or a once-every-couple-of-years special push, we may require very short-term extended hours, but otherwise we strongly encourage a maximum of 40 hours a week, and 8 hours of sleep a night. »