Shopify Meetings Calculator | An experiment to end unnecessary meetings
There’s truly nothing worse than a meeting that could have been an email. Meetings are like a plague on the work calendar, which is why Shopify are putting their efforts into a year long drive to reduce unnecessary meetings.
Shopify’s experiment began at the start of 2023, when the Canadian e-commerce platform cancelled all meetings for two weeks. The intention for this activity was for team members at Shopify to become more intentional about meetings and to begin to shorten meetings where possible. As Shopify COO Kaz Nejatian said in a statement, “No-one joined Shopify to sit in meetings.”
Now most recently, the Shopify meetings calculator has been causing hot debates in the realm of workplace culture. Is this a great hack to finally cull crap meetings? Or is it a pressure measure that makes people feel audited?
In this feature I’ll explain exactly what the Shopify meetings calculator is, why it might work for your company to cull unnecessary meetings, and offer some other alternatives if you’re not ready to go that radical.
What is the Shopify Meetings Calculator?
Shopify’s Meetings Calculator is a clever development that’s embedded in an employees calendar app. If there are three or more people in a meeting, the calculator estimates the price of that meeting. It creates this estimate from data on the average salary across roles and departments, as well the amount of people attending, and meeting length. The app was built by the COO Kaz Najatian.
Based on the current metrics, a 30-minute meeting with three employees can vary from $700 – $1,600. The price increases to $2000 if a c-suite executive joins the meeting.
“Time is money, and it should be spent on helping our merchants succeed and not on unnecessary meetings,” says Shopify CFO Jeff Hoffmeister.
Shopify’s reason for creating the calculator is to encourage people to be more intentional about organising meetings, and to avoid unnecessary ones. The tool illustrates the financial implications of meetings, and Shopify hopes that the calculator will make it easier for people to make decisions and think twice before scheduling a meeting.
The debate on the Meetings Calculator
Of course, as with any unusual culture experiment, social media has been awash with debate as to whether this is a great idea which will finally save people from the pains of unnecessary meetings, or whether this is a form of auditing time which only adds pressure and creates exclusion.
Let’s start with some of the criticisms of the Meetings Calculator.
The first and most obvious critique is that a cost-cutting calculator might overemphasise the need to limit attendees at all costs, meaning that collaboration and inclusive meetings may become dramatically reduced. The truth is we can’t really put a price tag on good communication or inclusion.
Another critique with the calculator is that it may add unnecessary pressure or a sense that people are being audited for how many meetings they are having and for how long – what happens if particular individuals are shown as having too many meetings? – In some company cultures this may create a sense of public shaming.
In the middle of the debate is the idea of having salaries as part of the meetings calculator. While Shopify has used averages, this still opens up a discussion about salaries and pay transparency.
At the other end of the spectrum the Meetings Calculator is being hailed as an antidote to unnecessary meetings, and meetings which should be shorter.
Should you try this?
There are a few things to consider before following Shopify’s tail feathers. After all, Shopify is being very intentional about these experiments. Meetings are just one area they are trying to understand and improve upon for a full year, so first of all you have to ask yourself what you hope to gain from trying something similar and how long are you willing to try it?
This isn’t just one idea, but many ideas that Shopify have been trialling in order to enhance meetings.
If meetings are a common pain point in your culture, (and usually they are), then you need to consider two things, how you reduce the amount of meetings you have, and how you optimise meetings.
Becoming conscious of why you have so many meetings to begin with helps to shape your awareness of your meeting rhythms. This is definitely why Shopify cancelled all meetings at the start of the year so that people had a completely clear diary, and once things started to come back, they could be very honest about whether or not those meetings were useful.
The truth is not all meetings are bad, it’s just we’ve got into some bad habits of how to run them, meaning most of the time they are unnecessary. Meetings can be vital spaces where collaboration, co-creation and decision making can happen. But as we all know, bad meetings are usually one person dominating the airspace while everyone sits and listens. Completely unengaging, and for most people in the room irrelevant to the work they need to do.
This is your starting place. Consider reducing meetings and optimising them, and then creating your own experiment. A great example of this is from the podcast where I interviewed Simon Chaplin from Greenstones Accountants, where he made his weekly meeting no longer mandatory – people choose whether to come or not.
If you do want to give the Shopify Meetings Calculator a try for your own team, my friend and new ways of working guru Mark Eddleston has created a version of the meetings cost calculator which you can find here.
Other ways to improve meetings
Meetings have become parodies on TikTok for good reason, seven out of 10 employees feel their time is being wasted, and a shocking 71% of people report having their time wasted due to unnecessary meetings. Plus recent data shows that 31 hours are spent on unproductive meetings each month.
There’s no denying that most companies need to work on quality over quantity when it comes to meetings.
Here’s a handful of experiments you could try next to improve your meetings;
Change the default
Most calendars default to 1 hour for a meeting, so change it. Instead set it to a shorter time and see how you get on.
Co-create the agenda
Start to make the most of meetings by co-creating an agenda before the meeting. What topics need addressing and who needs to lead that topic of discussion.
Theme your meetings
Discover what types of meetings you need in your company, and who wants to or needs to be there. There should be different types of meetings for different aspects of the business. If all your meetings run the same and are completely random around topic it’s time to get much more intentional about why this meeting space has been created.
Learn better decision making
There are many different ways you can make decisions in a meeting using a variety of methods. Don’t keep pushing decisions around for hours in the same meeting, or even creating ANOTHER meeting for the same decision. Instead, learn decision making frameworks such as consent based decision-making. Giving teams a framework to make decisions outside of meetings is also a way to stop meetings becoming the only place where decisions are made.
Improving your meetings doesn’t have to be as radical as a meetings calculator. Take one pain point and play with a way to ease it. For more ideas or to learn alternative meeting frameworks, book a workshop where I can share with your team the many ways to make meetings better.