Time is money, and
Inc wants its workers to understand that maxim applies to pointless meetings, too.
The Canadian e-commerce company has rolled out a calculator embedded in employees’ calendar app that estimates the cost of any meeting with three or more people. The tool uses average compensation data across roles and disciplines, along with meeting length and attendee count, to put a price tag on the event. A typical 30 minute endeavor with three employees can run from $700 up to $1,600. Adding an executive — like Chief Operating Officer Kaz Nejatian, who built the program during a company-wide hack day — can shoot the cost above $2000.
The new tool is part of the company’s yearlong drive to reduce unnecessary gatherings. Earlier this year, Shopify eliminated all recurring meetings with more than two people and started discouraging meetings on Wednesdays.
The goal of these initiatives, said Nejatian, is to “change the default answer from yes to no.”
The company is on pace to cut out 322,000 hours and 474,000 discrete events in 2023, according to Nejatian.
“No one at Shopify would expense a $500 dinner,” Nejatian said in an interview. “But lots and lots of people spend way more than that in meetings without ever making a decision. The goal of this thing is to show you that time is money. If you have to spend it, you think about it.”
Executives and their employees both say they spend hours each week in meetings that could disappear without consequence. Time wasted on activities like meetings were among the top five causes of inefficiency within an organization, a survey of business leaders and knowledge workers from project-management app Wrike found.
In total, noncritical meetings waste about $100 million a year at big organizations, according to research from
, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who has studied meetings for two decades.
Companies have battled the scourge of meetings for decades. When
took over at Ford Motor Co. in 2006, he slashed unnecessary or unduly long meetings to speed decision making. A decade ago, Bain & Co. found that a single weekly meeting of midlevel managers cost one organization $15 million a year, and senior executives devoted more than two days every week to meetings.
“Meetings are like weeds — they sprout back up, everywhere, unless you’re diligent,” said Brian Elliott, an executive adviser on workplace issues.
On its own, the Shopify calculator won’t likely change behaviors, Rogelberg said. “It is a very superficial intervention.”
He suggested the company couple it with training on best practices, feedback for middle managers and buy-in from senior leadership — all things that Shopify is already doing as part of its broader calendar campaign.
Another concern, said
, a senior consultant at workplace advisory firm Bright + Early, is that putting a dollar figure on meetings might discourage junior or marginalized employees from raising an important issue up the chain, thinking it’s not worth it.
“We have a ton of unnecessary meetings, sure, but we also have people who are left out of decisions,” Little said. “When people are working remotely especially, they want the connection and information.”
At Shopify, the average time spent in meetings per worker declined 14% over the first five months of 2023 compared with the same period last year. That’s helped contribute to a projected 18% increase in finished projects this year, Nejatian said.
“Most of the modern work environment is broken,” he said. “It’s not just any one change that matters.”