As the employees at Shopify returned to work on Tuesday morning after their holiday break, they were welcomed with a wonderful surprise: all meetings that had three or more people involved each time would be cancelled for two weeks! It was an effortless way of reducing everyone’s calendars and giving them some relief in the new year. Plus, no one should add these meetings back even if it stretches longer than two weeks – unless absolutely necessary.
During the initial two weeks, Kaz Nejatian, Shopify’s COO and VP of Product sent out an email on Tuesday that urged people to be very selective in bringing back essential meetings. He said, “At Shopify we join forces to create amazing things; To get a sense of satisfaction when our projects are released into the world saying ‘I did this!’ Meetings should not hinder us from doing so.” Therefore only add those necessary for progress!
In a bid to become more operationally efficient in the upcoming year, Shopify is introducing an array of new policies. This includes reinstating “meeting-free” Wednesdays and setting aside six hours every Thursday for large meetings. The email also detailed how Shopify – which assists merchants with building online shopping sites – plans on heightening their cadence when it comes to shipping product updates, as well as transitioning from an annual planning cycle to a quarterly schedule. Nejatian referred to this effort as “refactoring” the company – using a software term to explain these changes.
“We want to be a successful business,” Nejatian asserted as the company embarks on a year when numerous expect an economic recession. “Our customers are conscious about how they utilize resources,” he added. Although Shopify exceeded analysts’ predictions in its latest quarter, there were still job cuts and share prices dropped by almost 75% this past year due to increasing expenses from inflation and people reverting back to traditional shopping habits.
Shopify’ is not alone in their crusade to reduce meetings is an approach other companies have been taking as productivity concerns increase, burnout and mental health issues are on the rise as a result of the pandemic Zoom burnout.
At GitLab, they celebrate annual “meeting cleanup” days to decide which recurring meetings are still required. Last spring Asana experimented with something called “Meeting Doomsday” where all their team members deleted their existing meetings and only restored the ones that seemed valuable. Slack has adopted a strategy known as “Focus Fridays” while also conducting what is referred to as “calendar bankruptcy”, deleting standing meeting without second thought so they can be reevaluated at a later date if needed.
Shopify is taking it a step further and mandating that all large “all-hands” gatherings with more than 50 attendees take place only once per week, spanning six hours on Thursdays. Moreover, they will keep track of how well individual leaders are adhering to their Wednesday meeting policy. A bot has been developed to warn anyone trying to schedule an appointment for Wednesday and also motivate employees to scrap unnecessary meetings as well as leave large Slack groups.
Shopify advises that one-on-one meetings should still take place, but not on Wednesdays when possible. The company believes the new policies will result in approximately 10,000 calendar events being removed from workers’ calendars altogether.
How do you police such a policy? To limit the amount of time spent in meetings, managers can be assigned a “budget” of meeting hours that they must remain within. Additionally, participants’ video conferencing screens can display a counter with the dollar value cost for their attendance to increase awareness and remind people of how much money is being spent on this one-time event.
“We may do some of them if it ends up not sticking, but I’m very, very optimistic about it,” Nejatian says.
“The most important resource we have is the time of individual contributors. Companies are built improperly around the time of the manager rather than the doer,” he says. He adds: “We think it’s important to force change. You build a muscle by doing it.”
If you would like to read more on the topic of excessive meetings, check out this article.
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I joined the HR industry in 2004 after working as a sales leader in the Financial Services Industry for eight years. After spending his first couple of years in HR trying to fit in, I found my voice. Now I leverage all of the things I once hated about HR to become a consultant and invaluable partner to the businesses I support. I contribute to the HRGazzette and to DataDrivenInvestor on Medium. WARNING: my writing style is raw and in your face, not what you would expect from an HR executive.
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