But, this accomplishment becomes especially impressive when you realize that Fried is the Founder and CEO of Basecamp, a household name amongst project management platforms.
Fighting the "I'm So Busy" Culture
Yes, it's easy to think that the guy leading the charge at a company as successful as Basecamp would be burning the midnight oil and skipping precious sleep like many CEOs. But, Fried is conscious to not fall victim to the "I'm so busy" culture we've all come to glorify.
"I think that people use being busy as a badge of honor that they're important," Fried explains.
But, why? Where did this pride in being frazzled come from? "Part of that comes back to the fact that a lot of companies today celebrate long hours," says Fried, "They celebrate everyone being involved in everything all the time. They celebrate a lot of energy and a lot of noise."
Sounds familiar. But, Fried takes the opposite approach. He believes that the emphasis should be on results, rather than hours.
"To me, what's way more impressive is if people can work a normal eight-hour day or a 40-hour week, get wonderful work done, and come back Monday and be rested. I don't want people to brag about how long they worked, but about how well they worked," he says.
Encouraging Better Balance
This is a topic that Fried is incredibly passionate about -- something that became increasingly evident during our conversation. As a result, balance has always been a core pillar of Basecamp's culture.
While the company didn't start out with the ability to offer all of these perks, over the years Fried and his team have instituted numerous traditions and benefits that encourage employees to have a life outside of the office.
Some of these measures include:
- Limiting everybody (yes, even the CEO!) to 40 hours of work per week: "That's it," Fried says, "We don't want you to work anymore than that."
- Giving people full control of their own time: Basecamp has done away with useless meetings and required events that eat into employees' working time. Additionally, co-workers don't have access to each other's calendars -- a practice that many offices have been known to implement. "That's the most bankrupt idea," Fried states, "If you can see other people's calendars, you can take other people's time -- and then nobody owns their own time."
- Fridays off in the summer: From May through the end of September, Basecamp employees don't work at all on Fridays. "It's literally taking eight hours out of the week," says Fried, "Not cramming the same work into less hours."
Sounds pretty sweet, right? There's more.
Employees get a 30-day paid sabbatical every three years. The company also funds hobbies -- regardless of whether or not they relate to your job. "I want you to be happy and know that the company values who you are as a person," Fried adds.
And, Basecamp not only offers paid vacation days, but will also actually foot the bill for employees' time away. Each year, the company offers 16 different amazing trips and allows team members who have been there for at least one year to choose one getaway. They can even bring their families along.
While many employers are familiar with in-office perks -- like catered meals from gourmet chefs -- Basecamp would rather provide those benefits at home. "I think those are all techniques to get people to stay at the office," Fried says, "We'll provide fresh fruits and veggies, but we'll do it at home so employees can share with their families."
Balance Doesn't Have to Cost a Fortune
These sorts of extras definitely add to the appeal of Basecamp as an employer. But, Fried also recognizes that perks at this scale aren't necessarily possible for every company -- particularly those who are just getting started.
"You grow into these things over time," Fried explains, "But, there are things you can do that have nothing to do with money. Allow people to be in control over their own time. Stop having soul-sucking meetings."
Those sorts of things don't cost a penny but will make a huge difference for employees. "As the company becomes more successful, you can look to increase and double down on the principles when you have more means," he adds.
Striking a Balance for Yourself
Unfortunately, not all of us will have the luxury of working for an organization that places so much emphasis on balance. So, I made sure to ask Fried: What can people do to take balance into their own hands, regardless of whether or not it's a core part of their company's culture?
Fried was quick to admit that it's tough to change in the middle of the storm -- it's easier said than done to leave the office at a reasonable hour when everybody else is staying late. However, Fried did have one great piece of advice to share.
"Many people create this sense of busy for themselves. They make things hard on themselves," he says.
Fried offered an example from his time as a freelance web designer early in his career. He sank hours into writing 10-page proposals -- when he eventually realized that a one-page document that took him just 20 minutes accomplished the exact same thing.
"It's hard to tell your boss that they should change the way things are, so I can't give that kind of advice," Fried adds, "But, I do think people can look at their own work and question what they're doing."
Today, you don't hear of too many CEOs working a 40-hour workweek -- especially when the average CEO workweek is closer to a whopping 57.8 hours.
But, Fried is going to continue to stick to that 40-hour standard, and he hopes other people begin to follow suit.
"Hustle has become this glorified thing," he concludes, "But, I often find myself wondering, 'Why is everyone going so fast, and what is actually better because of that?'"