Basecamp CEO Jason Fried says paid parental leave and generous vacation policies are requisite to keeping people happy. The trick is what comes next.
Ask most CEOs why they don't offer more perks to their employees, and they'll probably say it's a matter of cost or resources.
Jason Fried, CEO of the web development company Basecamp, has another excuse: He's already implemented them.
"I'd love to continue to give more and more things to make people happier and more comfortable," Fried told Business Insider. "I'm just running out of ideas for it."
Basecamp's approach to employee benefits is to view standard-of-living as a top priority. Instead of worrying how much more productive employees will be or how much additional revenue a given perk will yield, Fried views the perks as virtues in and of themselves.
In addition to generous salaries, healthcare plans, 401(k) matching, and time-off policies, Basecamp employees receive a $5,000 annual vacation stipend; $100 a month for home massages; $100 for fresh produce; 16 weeks paid parental leave; and tenured sabbaticals every three years. They also work shortened 4-day, 32-hour weeks during the summer.
One of the simplest reasons Basecamp can afford to give people all these perks is that the company is small — it has just over 50 employees. But Fried said it also helps that the company is entirely self-funded, with no board of directors.
"We do what we want to do, and we make quick calls," he said.
Whenever an employee has an idea for a new perk, they submit the idea through a shared internal document. Then it's put to a vote among the staff, and if enough of them like it, Fried weighs whether it's feasible.
"Basically, if people ask for something that's reasonable, we give it to them," he said.
Basecamp has some peers in the creative perk department. Digital marketing company Steelhouse, for instance, offers employees $2,000 a year to take any vacation they choose. Earlier this year, the company also implemented monthly three-day weekends known as Steelhouse Days.
A number of other larger companies have taken steps to be more employee-friendly in recent years, particularly with parental leave. In August 2015, Netflix began offering salaried employees unlimited paid parental leave for a whole year. (Four months later, it started offering hourly workers 16 weeks of paid leave, where before they received 12 weeks.)
Only a handful of people have left Basecamp — which launched in 1999 — in the last several years, Fried said. Some leave within the first year, typically because they aren't a good fit, but if they make it past the one-year mark they tend to stick around for quite a while. More than 60% of the staff has been there for four years or more. The perks might have something to do with it.
Fried's ultimate goal is to keep people at the company, but not at the office.
"Go enjoy the weather, go enjoy the weekend, go on vacation," he said. "It's really about distancing yourself from this trend of being always on, always working."