The REWORK podcast

A podcast about a better way to work and run your business. We bring you stories and unconventional wisdom from Basecamp’s co-founders and other business owners.


The (Social) Distance

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Basecamp is a remote company, so we’re less disrupted by the current pandemic than many other businesses, but we’re still taking steps to keep folks safe. Jason Fried talks about canceling the company’s April meetup and closing the Chicago office. Rework will be taking a few weeks off so we can get set up with recording studios at home. In the meantime, if you’re working from home for the first time, we’d love to hear your stories! Please get in touch at (you can write an email or send us a voice memo) or leave us a voicemail at 708-628-7850.

The Full Transcript:

Shaun: [00:00:00] All right, Jason, can you give me some levels real quick? Cool.

Jason: [00:00:04] Tearing the heart out, Saturday night.

Shaun: [00:00:09] Tearing the heart out of Saturday night.

Jason: [00:00:11] Joe Bob Briggs. Hey now.

Shaun: [00:00:13] He is a cowbow reviewer of horror movies.

Jason: [00:00:17] Oh fuck, what? For real?

Shaun: [00:00:18] Yeah, he has a live show on—

Jason: [00:00:20] Still.

Shaun: [00:00:21] On a streaming service, which is pretty fun.

Jason: [00:00:21] Yeah. So that’s a new shirt?

Shaun: [00:00:25] Yeah. He gave a keynote address about how hill-billies saved genre film, and the importance of rednecks in horror movies.

Jason: [00:00:33] Okay.

Shaun: [00:00:33] It was really, really good.

Jason: [00:00:34] That’s good. That’s really good, huh?

[00:00:35] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.

Shaun: [00:00:37] Welcome to Rework, the podcast by Basecamp about the better way to work and run your business. I’m Shaun Hildner.

Wailin: [00:00:44] And I’m Wailin Wong. This week’s episode, you might have noticed is a little shorter. And it’s another one in a little segment we like to call Last Week with Jason Fried.

Shaun: [00:00:51] The Last Week with Jason Fried segment is where we get to sit down and talk to Jason about some of the things that a business owner has to think about that aren’t necessarily related to releasing a product or designing something new. Business owners have to think about what we’re going to do with the office when the lease runs out. Or, in this case, how to handle this pandemic of coronavirus.

Wailin: [00:01:13] Officially a pandemic, according to the WHO. Even Basecamp, which is remote, has a physical office here in Chicago. That’s where Shaun and I are right now recording this episode. So, even Basecamp has to think about what to do in a situation where public health officials are recommending that people stay at home and do not venture out unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Shaun: [00:01:35] So today we’re going to talk about a huge decision Jason and David had to make regarding our company meet up.

Jason: [00:01:50] Well, we’re lucky in that we’ve grown up as a remote company. So I feel like nothing has changed for us. I’m seeing all these companies send everyone home but we’re like, everyone’s already home. Or, what are we going to do when no one can go to work and have meetings and of course we don’t have that because we’ve always been remote for the most part.

[00:02:08] So now, instead of having four people in the office, there’s three, or there’s two, or there’s nobody. So for us, it’s been about normal, but what isn’t normal is that twice a year we have these meet ups where we fly everybody into Chicago to hang out for a week together, and we have one coming up at the end of April, last week of April. And so here we are. Last week of April, which is about eight weeks away, or something like that. We’d be flying people in from all over the world and every time we get together, everyone gets sick anyway because we don’t get around people very often so we all get together and everyone gets the meet up plague, is what we call it. And now there’s actually a legitimate plague floating around out there in a sense.

[00:02:47] So we started talking about this, I think it was about a week ago. David actually brought it up. We have a Basecamp project set up called Admin where me, David, Navid, and Andrea talk about administrative stuff. It’s a very exciting Basecamp.

Shaun: [00:03:01] Oh, it sounds like it.

Jason: [00:03:01] Super exciting. David’s like, you know, I know it’s early. I don’t feel like I want to be an alarmist, but we’ve got this meet up coming up, people are booking tickets, we’re booking hotel rooms. Like, what should we do here. And this was a little bit before everything started to be cancelled. And then there were a few conferences I was going to that were cancelled and a few things David was going to that were cancelled. Things were just being cancelled and we’re hearing about them everywhere.

[00:03:21] So we just kind of kept an eye on it and as these things tend to do, they don’t get better for a while. So it got worse and worse and worse and we decided that it was time to make the call to cancel the meet up. Which is something we’ve never done in however long we’ve been around, we’ve always done this.

Shaun: [00:03:36] Yeah, that was going to be my next question. Have you ever cancelled a meet up before?

Jason: [00:03:40] Never, never cancelled one. Strangely enough, I had to miss one because I had pneumonia. This is like, ten years ago. So here we go. I think I was there for one day, and then I actually had pneumonia. The only time I’ve ever had it in my life. It’s brutal, by the way.

Shaun: [00:03:52] I can imagine.

Jason: [00:03:52] Horrible. It’s horrible. So, we went back and forth a few times, and should we, should we not, this kind of thing. And then eventually, I’m just like. What’s going to change? And this is something that when we think about making decisions here, if we’re going to put something off, put a decision off, there has to be a reason to put it off. You can put it off for a day because you want to sleep on it. That’s a normal thing to do. But if you’re going to put it off beyond that, you have to say, we’re going to put it off because there’s going to be new information or because something’s going to change. But the only the new thing that’s happening here, whatever’s changing is getting worse. So, it made sense that we just for the safety of everybody and so we don’t infect more people if that happens. So we decided to cancel it, or postpone it was actually the words we used.

[00:04:34] You know, we’ll probably do some, like David and I usually give a two hour talk on Monday. We’ll probably do that virtually. And then, I think that’s all we’ll probably do. We have, maybe, maybe we’ll do a couple of the things virtually like our employee recognition awards, that kind of stuff.

Shaun: [00:04:48] Sure.

Jason: [00:04:48] But we haven’t really talked about how to pull that all off. We’ll use Zoom or whatever…

Shaun: [00:04:51] Right. You cancelled all business travel, as well, right?

Jason: [00:04:54] Oh yeah, that too. We decided that… I mean, we don’t really fly much for business anyway, but people have different workshops and conferences that they’ve agreed to, and most of these are being cancelled so that sort of answers the question. But we didn’t want anyone to feel like they had to do something… that they felt obligated to fly because they agreed to something months and months and months ago. Like, they agreed to it months and months and months ago under different conditions and we wanted to say, like, we wanted to provide cover, basically, at the company level. Saying, let’s not have any, let’s not do any unnecessary business travel. If you have anything scheduled, feel free to cancel it and we’ll take the heat as a company for it or whatever. But I don’t think that that’s going to happen. Everyone’s understanding right now.

[00:05:35] And I know Michael had an accessibility conference in California he really, really wanted to go to but he decided not to. I’m supposed to be speaking at something in Philadelphia in two weeks which I cancelled and then they cancelled a few days later, because I kind of knew that was going to happen anyway. There’s something I’m supposed to be speaking at in May, which they haven’t decided yet but I have a pretty good sense they’re going to cancel that, so.

Shaun: [00:05:56] I just read that RailsConf was cancelled this year.

Jason: [00:05:59] RailsConf…

Shaun: [00:05:59] That’s a lot of Basecampers that…

Jason: [00:06:01] That’s a big, yeah. Bunch of people from here, so. It’s just like, look, everything’s going to be fine. Life will go on, we don’t need to do these things. We want to do these things, but we don’t need to do these things, so why put everybody at risk, even if it’s a sense of overreaction. But I don’t even think it is at this point anymore. People just don’t know. There’s only been a handful of, a couple thousand people have been tested in the US, I’m sure there’s like thousands and thousands who have this virus right now but no one knows.

Shaun: [00:06:24] Right.

Jason: [00:06:24] Let’s just not be the spreaders.

Shaun: [00:06:28] Why risk it?

Jason: [00:06:28] Yeah, why risk it? It’s not a big deal. So, that was the call we made and we announced it in Basecamp, actually I think Navid wrote it up ultimately. And I think everyone was appreciative. Some people were disappointed because the meet ups were a big deal for them, especially people who come from overseas, but, you know. Everyone understands and the other thing is that this was going to be the last meet up in our office.

Shaun: [00:06:46] Yeah.

Jason: [00:06:46] Yeah.

Shaun: [00:06:46] That’s a little painful.

Jason: [00:06:48] It is kind of sad. Because our lease is up in a few months, this was the last one, but oh well. We’ll have to wreck it remotely. Throw chairs.

Shaun: [00:06:57] Oh like when your buddies are moving out of an apartment and… one last party.

Jason: [00:07:00] Yeah, one last party, so we’ll do a virtual. Shaun, you’ll take a chair and someone will say like, I want you to throw the chair over there, so you’ll whip it there. We’ll have it on camera. Take another request, you know.

Shaun: [00:07:11] I like that.

Jason: [00:07:12] Yeah, do that.

Shaun: [00:07:12] Direct Shaun to break shit.

Jason: [00:07:13] Exactly.

Shaun: [00:07:14] I like that, I like that.

Jason: [00:07:15] Exactly, so. That’s the plan. No meet up and no business travel for now. And when is it going to change? I don’t know. We’ll have to see. I saw something about pandemics typically, they…

Shaun: [00:07:26] —give a double hump.

Jason: [00:07:25] Really bad. Yeah, the double hump thing. So, what’s that like, summer? Although I guess when it gets hotter it tends to, these things tend to slow down quite a bit.

Shaun: [00:07:33] Yeah, I think the second wave is in the fall, maybe.

Jason: [00:07:35] Oh, in the fall, okay. After, yeah. So, we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what shakes out, yeah.

Shaun: [00:07:39] So, Wailin, another huge change that’s happening around here in regards to the coronavirus is you and I can’t come together to record anymore.

Wailin: [00:07:49] Yeah, and I feel like David and Jason didn’t even want us here today, but you and I kind of just snuck in. And we’re like, doing this one last time.

Shaun: [00:07:55] This is the last time, I promise, we’re here in the office.

Wailin: [00:07:57] Because we just got a memo today from Andrea, our Head of People Ops, and it was a business continuity memo, and it was just guidelines on what to do during coronavirus and in red, bold letters, the office is closed effective today. And I was like, okay, we’ll just record this and get out.

Shaun: [00:08:15] We’re almost done.

Wailin: [00:08:16] We just have to grab snacks.

Shaun: [00:08:18] But the problem is, you and I don’t have recording setups at home. I don’t even have a home office. So in order to give us a little bit of time to set up our home recording studios so that we can continue the podcast from home, we’re going to have to take a couple weeks off.

Wailin: [00:08:31] We’ve also had some guests need to reschedule and things like that. I think there’s just a lot of disruptions going on and things are really changing and people are really worried. And coming on Rework should not be the tip-top priority for anyone that I have tried to email or call in the last few weeks. So we’re just going to take a little hiatus.

Shaun: [00:08:50] And in that time we’ll be running a couple of our favorite episodes, both from Rework and our previous podcast, The Distance.

Wailin: [00:08:57] Social distance.

Jason: [00:09:01] You know, this is just good practice anyway for everybody, because we’re a remote company but we don’t know how to do this remotely that well, right, so.

Shaun: [00:09:06] Exactly, exactly.

Jason: [00:09:08] We know what the equipment is, you’ve already put a list together. Buy the equipment and find a quiet space in the house and record, and it’ll be fine. And also, if the quality goes down a little bit for a few episodes, that’s fine, too. It’s kind of like, hey. It’s okay. This is where we are, this is what we’re doing with what we have. Okay. So, I’m looking forward to hearing you guys record remotely and see how that shakes out. I mean, a lot of the interviews you do are remote anyway, right?

Shaun: [00:09:28] Exactly.

Jason: [00:09:29] People call in on the phone, so we can do it. Just need to get some practice. Get some reps in.

[00:09:34] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.

Shaun: [00:09:39] Rework is produced by Wailin Wong and me, Shaun Hildner. Music for the show is by Clip Art.

Wailin: [00:09:45] A lot of you might be working from home for the first time, and so if you have stories about what it’s been like to work from home and what you’re learning and what you like and don’t like about it, we’d love to hear from you. Maybe we’ll play your story on a future episode when we come back from hiatus. You can either record a voice memo and email it to us at, or you can leave us a voice mail at (708) 628-7850. Again, that’s (708) 628-7850.

Wailin: [00:10:30] I also had this thought that we should be, like, wiping down all this equipment with Clorox wipes.

Shaun: [00:10:33] Get out of your own head!

Wailin: [00:10:37] Fomites, Shaun.

Shaun: [00:10:38] This entire room is fomites. Do you have any idea how close we are to these microphones.

Wailin: [00:10:41] No, I know… well, see, now, the fuzzy thing over the microphone is porous and I read that porous things are less likely to catch the germs on it than a smooth surface like this table.

Shaun: [00:10:55] Mmm. Don’t touch table.

Wailin: [00:10:56] Did you touch the table?

Shaun: [00:10:58] Never. I never have touched the table. I never will.

Wailin: [00:11:00] Well, regardless, when we leave here, we should go wash our hands.

Shaun: [00:11:04] I’m touching my face right now.

Wailin: [00:11:05] I know.

Shaun: [00:11:05] I just thought about that.

Wailin: [00:11:08] It’s really hard not to touch your face.

Shaun: [00:11:08] It is.