Businesses actually caring about people is not new. People always have been human and so, even as some business owners past and present have treated employees inhumanely, there always were and still are and ever will be businesses run by executives who treat employees with dignity. Simplicity can help.
For example, in the creative industry there is a product full of simplicity that helps tame the complexities of projects large and small. Basecamp. You might have know the company as 37Signals before its recent name change. You might know, too, that the company has something like a cult following among its users. Personally, I would like to resist the label of cult follower, though I could hardly be more of a fan. Using Basecamp is a pleasure. A human-centered pleasure.
With the launch of Basecamp 3, Jason Fried and his team are exploring a way to make the corporate grind even more human. Work Can Wait. In the always-on noise of cyber modernity, this feature allows employees to shut off notifications for certain periods of time, like weekends or after hours.
Now, I have been a business owner and felt the pull of a 24-7 workweek. And in the past eight years at my current job, it has been the rare evening or weekend when I have not checked the status of a project or at minimum scanned emails. I am of the opinion that work is one of the most human things we can do Yet, stepping away from work and being present with family and friends and community is equally human.
What does all this have to do with simplicity? Users of Basecamp will know that it is a beautifully simple product. I do not have enough experience to know if SpaceX could use Basecamp to launch and land rockets; highly complex projects probably require different, less simple project management software. Behind the ethos of Basecamp, though, is the belief that complexity does not need to be tamed with complexity. There is a commitment to the power of simplicity baked right into the software user interface. And, it seems to me, the new Work Can Wait feature extends that commitment beyond UX. The feature makes the case that not only are complex challenges not solved by more complexity, but complexity is not overcome by constancy. As humans, we bring our non-omnipresent and non-omniscient selves to all that we do at work. The way that we are built, we need to step away from time to time.
Honestly, I am not sure I could use the Work Can Wait feature in the new Basecamp. Perhaps habit and the demands of the always-on world around me would win out. But I appreciate the idea. And it seems genuinely human-centered.