37signals, makers of Backpack, Basecamp, Highrise and other great software have published their ideas for making their company a great place to work: Workplace Experiments. Included in their experiments are shorter work weeks, funding people’s passions, and discretionary spending accounts.
As I read their introductory post I reminded myself that in my one-man business I’ve already put several of these ideas into practice.
Shorter work week
I started a 4-day work week April 25th, 2007. Having Fridays free from client work has been a huge blessing. I can play, work on personal projects, or just catch up on reading and learning. In the middle of our traveling and RVing it was often a perfect day to leave our RV park and hit the road. We would beat the weekend traffic, get to our location sooner, and be able to visit and sightsee before starting the next week of work. And as 37signals points out, “We found that just about the same amount of work gets done in four days vs. five days.” So true.
Funding my passions
This is self-fulfilling since I am a freelancer. But, I still have to be disciplined enough to put it into practice. My current passion is travel and learning; this includes working with my wife to publish our photos and stories (she does most of that work). Our work discipline has paid off big in this regard. Having a mobile and flexible work situation funds our passions directly. We can travel where we wish—visiting family and friends and seeing every corner of our beautiful country.
This one is also easy to do when you are your own boss and accountant. I generally buy any book that is needed for learning web design or development—especially if I can find a used copy on Amazon. I decided with my wife, who I include on business and financial decisions, that anything under a certain amount (say $100) would not require a discussion—I could just buy it and not have to worry about it. Big ticket items still require careful thinking and planning, which is the way it should be whether you are a one-man team or a 100-person in-house group.
I’m glad to see 37signals set the bar high for the industry in publishing their workplace experiments. They continue to be an enormous inspiration to businesses big and small. I’m also happy that I’ve been setting these same principles into practice for at least a year—with great results.