They Led the Cult of Remote Work. Now We’re All Members.
It only took a pandemic for us to live in Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s remote work fantasy
“Obviously, the news is a big deal,” said Jason Fried on a call last week. The markets were spiraling, his hometown of Chicago had just issued a stay-at-home order, and the coronavirus pandemic seemed to permeate every aspect of life. “But otherwise, it’s absolutely no different than any other workweek in the past 20 years.”
Fried wasn’t being sarcastic. The author, blogger, podcaster, and co-founder/CEO of Basecamp — a remote project management platform that was sort of Slack before there was Slack — was at his home office 15 minutes outside of downtown Chicago. Meanwhile, his CTO co-founder, co-author, co-blogger, and co-podcaster, David Heinemeier Hansson, was thousands of miles away at his home office in Malibu, California. And if they stayed off Twitter and ignored the howls of frustrated children (their own) who should be at school or daycare, they could almost pretend that the world wasn’t falling apart.
Basecamp has been a virtual company for all of its 21 years. And apart from a dozen or so temporarily displaced workers at the company’s headquarters in Chicago, all 50-something of its employees were in their usual personal headquarters — behind laptops and monitors in remote offices across the country and around the world, including one guy in the middle of a forest on a lake in Canada. “That part of the equation is really unchanged,” Heinemeier Hansson says. “Self-isolation and a normal workday for us — they kind of look like each other.”
Tireless promoters of contrarian views about the workplace, the tech industry, and Silicon Valley, the duo have long hoisted themselves onto every platform and medium available.
But as Covid-19 clamped down hard on Americans’ lives and companies trepidatiously scrambled en masse to shift their workforces online, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson couldn’t ignore this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to evangelize a philosophy of work — and their personal brand — that they had been talking about, and…