This Tech CEO and His Employees Only Work 4 Days a Week

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placenamehere/FlickrTreehouse founder Ryan Carson.
By Richard Feloni

Ryan Carson tried the relentless startup lifestyle when he worked for a startup design firm in London after college.

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He was regularly delirious with exhaustion from a few hours of nightly sleep and was frustrated with his output, he told The Washington Post in February.

That's why he now offers the 87 employees of his company, Treehouse, a 32-hour, four-day workweek."I think hard work is great," Carson told The Atlantic in a recent video interview. "I mean, I work really hard, you know — Monday through Thursday."

Treehouse is a Portland, Oregon-based online learning platform that offers skill-based courses for a small price. Carson, who serves as CEO, founded Treehouse in 2013 with the four-day workweek philosophy he gave employees at his previous company, Carsonified, in 2006. His wife and business partner, Gillian, suggested nixing Fridays, since the reason they started their own business was to enjoy a better quality of life.

Treehouse CFO Michael Watson told The Atlantic that while Carson's motivation has always been to create a corporate culture that accommodates parents of young children and those who want to abandon the workaholic lifestyle, it also results in less wasted time and more creativity.

"I think that when people aren't overworked, the chance for that lightbulb to go off, that epiphany moment ... is increased," Watson told The Atlantic.

Tech companies tend to be more adventurous with the perks they offer because the field for recruiting top engineering and research talent is highly competitive, and exceptional benefits like the paid lunches and subsidized childcare Google offers, for example, give them an edge.

And similar to the way Zappos is experimenting with eliminating traditional managers, Carson decided in July 2013 to get rid of management roles. Instead, each morning employees decide among themselves which projects they will work on and how they will choose to collaborate.

Carson told The Atlantic that a four-day workweek combined with a hands-off management approach is attractive enough that he's able to hire some of the top talent big tech companies vie for.

While it's impossible to measure the relative effect of the 32-hour week on Treehouse's performance since it adopted it from the outset, the company is growing at a healthy pace.

Treehouse has over 100,000 enrolled users and nearly 100% employee retention, and brought in about $10 million in revenue last year. It has raised $13 million from investors like Digg founder Kevin Rose and Kaplan Ventures.

Carson told The Post that it's a matter of increasing his employees' productivity over the long term. "If you put them in a race with someone for one month, and one works 60-hour weeks, and one works 32, then yes, the person who worked 60 hours is going to get more done in that one month," he said. "How about in 12 months? How about in seven years?"
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