As the co-founder of the Chicago company 37signals and co-author of the book "Rework," Jason Fried has been thinking about the nature of the workplace for a long time.

"I've been working since I was 14, and for my first few jobs I was working for bad managers and bad owners,” he explains. “I realized early on that the environment is a big part of the job."

Cost to be boss

While Fried ultimately started his own company after years of freelancing, he warns that this isn't always the path to workplace freedom. "I think a lot of people end up actually working a lot more,” he says. “You have to be disciplined about it and put up some boundaries, because otherwise you're going to end up working 60, 70, 80 hours a week."

THE DRAWING BOARD: "Offices are interruption factories," says Fried. "We've given ourselves too much permission to interrupt other people. It's not a very productive place anymore."

For employees who want to ask their bosses for more flexibility, Fried says there's a simple way to get it. "Take very, very, very small steps. Rather than telling your boss you want to start working from home, just say, would it be okay if I worked from home one afternoon a week? Or one day a month? The only way to show them you can get your work done is to prove it."

It may also help to remind your boss why it's so hard to do your best work at the office. "Offices are interruption factories," says Fried. "We've given ourselves too much permission to interrupt other people. It's not a very productive place anymore."