- Basecamp’s CEO wrote that social discussions have become a “major distraction.”
- He also banned fitness benefits and internal committees.
- Critics say the policy could hamper diversity efforts, but Basecamp told Insider that its DEI work will continue.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Jason Fried, the cofounder CEO of productivity software company Basecamp announced on Monday that he was banning “societal and political discussions,” at work, ending “paternalistic benefits” like wellness and fitness, and making a host of other controversial policy changes.
The announcement sparked widespread condemnation from others in the tech industry on social media.
Fried explained that social discussions have become a “major distraction” and “redirects our dialog towards dark places.”
But Fried didn’t stop there. Basecamp plans to end peer performance reviews, internal committees, and instead of wellness allowances and fitness benefits, the company will pay employees the full cash value of those benefits this year.
“It’s none of our business what you do outside of work, and it’s not Basecamp’s place to encourage certain behaviors,” he wrote in the post about why the company was ending such benefits.
In a follow-up to Fried’s post, David Heinemeier Hansson, Basecamp’s cofounder and chief technology officer, said the company would still discuss political issues tied closely to its business. For instance, Hansson has been outspoken on Twitter about Apple’s policies for approving apps in its App Store and has given testimony before Congress on the topic.
As for other issues, Hansson said employees should feel free to engage in activism — just not in the office.
“Bring all your political advocacy to whatever personal spaces you have,” he wrote. “Just don’t bring it into the internal communication platforms we use for work, unless it directly relates to our business.”
Fried told Insider that Basecamp remains committed to its diversity, equity and inclusion work, which will continue under its head of people ops, Andrea LaRowe. In the past, he has written about Basecamp’s efforts to increase racial and gender diversity within the company by revising the language in its job descriptions and posting its openings on sites geared toward underrepresented groups in technology.
Some observers said they agreed that keeping out political discussions made for better work environments.
“This generation seems convinced that everything is political, and life is about politics,” wrote Josh Lewis, a freelance web engineer, on Twitter. “It isn’t. It never has been. It’s an unhealthy mentality and an addiction.”
Basecamp has some precedent for this sort of ban. Last year Coinbase made waves when CEO Brian Armstrong also banned social discussions at work. Coinbase offered employees who disagreed with this position severance packages, and 60 staffers took the offer. The ban ultimately has not hampered its business prospects. It went public earlier this month briefly hitting a $100 billion valuation
Yet others suggested that having to keep quiet on such issues is a burden for groups such as racial minorities and LGBTQ communities. A policy like Basecamp’s, some said, could hamper efforts to improve upon diversity, equity and inclusion — an area that has long been a weakness for the tech industry.
“Not sure how you can continue DEI work without being able to talk about politics,” Alex Estrada Cline, a senior product designer at Help Scout, wrote on Twitter in a discussion on Basecamp’s new policy.