Why Long Hours and an Obsession With Efficiency Might Be Hurting Your Business

What if working long hours, living on Slack, and growing as fast as possible isn't the best way to run a business? The founders of Basecamp are pretty sure they have the answer.
Source: tmeks | Getty Images
tmeks | Getty Images

On March 7 at 4:30 a.m. Greenwich mean time, a tech company’s worst nightmare began. For eight and a half hours, a catastrophic network failure disabled Basecamp’s popular project management software. Instead of boosting productivity for its three million accounts around the world, Basecamp stopped people from getting their work done. “We’re incredibly sorry…especially for our European customers,” wrote cofounder and CTO David Heinemeier Hansson on the company blog. He explained that the problem originated with their cloud provider, took full responsibility, and promised they would work diligently to make sure it never happened again.  

Related: My Career in Silicon Valley Taught Me the Futility of 80-Hour Work Weeks

But it did -- just six days later. This time, Heinemeier Hansson couldn’t apologize enough. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry (and ashamed),” he told customers. “It’s also been a mighty fall…From riches of reliance to rags of shambles. To say this is humbling is an epic understatement.”

Such a fiasco would cause a crisis in most companies. But for Basecamp, it actually proved a point. Internally, there was no freaking out, no worry about losing jobs. Everybody just hunkered down and focused on fixing the problem; if anyone worked overtime, they came in late the next day, no sleep lost and insanity, and to that end have purposefully curated a culture of calm in their company. They wrote the book on the subject. Several, in fact. And they’ve done it all exactly for moments like this.

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