Tech companies are notorious for offering job "perks" that function like gilded handcuffs: fancy benefits like free meals and laundry that keep you tied to the office for long hours.
Jason Fried is a tech CEO with a radically different philosophy. At Basecamp, the 50-person software company he helped found about 15 years ago, the benefits support a culture that urges employees to work reasonable hours (40 a week is encouraged), sleep more, stay healthy and expand their horizons.
Employees at Fried's Chicago-based company, which develops project management software, not only receive paid time-off to take vacations, but the company pays for their vacations as an annual "gift" to those with at least one year's tenure. New employees receive a paid-for night on the town.
In a blog post earlier this week, Fried detailed a dizzying array of other benefits:
Four-day, 30-hour workweeks in the summer.
$100 a month for fitness, which employees can spend on gym memberships, yoga classes, race fees, etc.
$100 a month for massages.
CSA (community supported agriculture) memberships, so workers get locally grown fruits and vegetables.
The option to work anywhere. Basecamp employees are located all around the country.
A one-month sabbatical every three years.
There's more. Recently, Fried formalized a parental leave policy. Mothers and fathers who are primary caregivers get 16 weeks off fully paid.
The vacation policy exemplifies this rationale. Workers get a total of three weeks off. They can spend some of that time on an all-expenses-paid trip courtesy of Basecamp. This year they can get to choose among travel to such places as Martha's Vineyard, the Grand Canyon, Ethiopia and Verona, Italy. Workers pick from the options in the annual "book" and take the trips, which run five to seven days, alone or with their loved ones. Oh, and Basecamp makes all the travel arrangements because Fried doesn't want anyone to stress over the planning part.
The message is clear: "We want you to take vacation. Please get out of here!" Fried said.
The paid vacations replaced cash bonuses a few years ago. "We're spending the same amount of money and giving people experience they wouldn't have on their own. It makes them more interesting people," he said.