The successful switch to full-time remote work as a result of the pandemic would not have been possible without virtual meeting technology.
Technology like Webex, Zoom and Microsoft Teams enabled distributed teams to stay connected and collaborate with each other.
But meeting tech is far from a silver bullet – over meeting and back to back video calls have become a major issue. It has caused so-called ‘Zoom fatigue’ and distracted employees from focused, productive work.
To tackle meeting fatigue head on, companies started to implement meeting-free days. High profile examples include Citigroup, Twilio, Meta and Atlassian.
Shopify moves beyond meeting-free days
However, e-commerce giant Shopify has decided 2023 is the year to take this even further.
It has reinforced Wednesday as a company-wide meeting-free day and has implemented a ‘calendar purge’ in which all recurring meetings with more than two people will be removed.
Shopify is also encouraging workers to decline meetings and to remove themselves from large internal “unwieldy” chat groups. The employer is also moving away from email communication, and integrating Slack into its new comms platform Workplace by Meta.
“It’s much easier to add things than to remove things. If you say yes to a thing, you actually say no to every other thing you could have done with that period of time.
“As people add things, the set of things that can be done becomes smaller. Then, you end up with more and more people just maintaining the status quo.”
Given that large, long meetings are believed to be a huge drain on employee productivity and engagement, Shopify has also decided all meetings with more than 50 people will happen during a six-hour window on Thursdays. Also, the employer declared workers will only be required to attend one of these large meetings a week.
Talking to Forbes, COO and vice-president of product Kaz Nejatian said: “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.
“We think it’s important to force change. You build a muscle by doing it.”
In a memo to employees, which Shopify shared with UNLEASH, Nejatian added: “No one joined Shopify to sit in meetings. Not one person has ever thought, “you know what will make a big impact on entrepreneurship? Day after day of back to back meetings.”
“People join Shopify to build. To make cool shit. To see the thing they had their hands on get released so they can say, “whoa, I made that.” Meetings are a bug along that journey.”
The policy, which comes into effect today (5 January), will be enforced by a bot. There will be a two week cooling off period, according to Bloomberg, after which employees can decide if they want to reinstate a cancelled meeting.
This move from Shopify is just the latest in its experimentation of how its people work – during COVID-19 it became ‘digital by design’ and enabled employees to work from anywhere and has enabled employees to decide how much of their pay will be cash versus equity.
But the new meeting policy also comes on the back of layoffs and cost cutting at Shopify. Back in July, the employer announced it was laying off 10% of its workforce, primarily those in sales, recruitment and support functions. With a smaller workforce, streamlining and productivity becomes even more essential – is this playing into Shopify’s latest approach to meetings?
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