Purple calculator with white and yellow buttons and cartoon dollar coins arranged in a stack beside it.
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Shopify counts the cost of staff meetings amid push for productivity

31 Jul 2023

A meeting cost calculator is the latest tool Shopify has added to its arsenal as part of its bid to make its remote-first model more productive.

With some tech giants enforcing a gradual – or not-so-gradual – return to the office to boost employee productivity and morale, others are doubling down on the fully remote model for the same reasons.

Shopify is firmly in the latter camp, having been remote-first since long before the pandemic. The commerce player has not escaped the swathe of tech layoffs that plagued the industry in late 2022 and early 2023. In July 2022 it announced it planned to cut 10pc of its headcount, while in May of this year, it cut a further 20pc of its staff in order to become more “fit for purpose” as CEO Tobias Lütke put it.

For the remaining staff that held on to their jobs, Shopify’s management was simultaneously working to bring in big cultural changes around productivity and focus. In the middle of the two layoff announcements in 2022 and 2023, Lütke told staff that they would be cutting back on internal company meetings. The policy came into effect in January 2023 and it was given the moniker Chaos Monkey.

As part of the policy, staff were told to cancel all recurring meetings involving more than three people. Wednesdays were to be made completely free of meetings, while large meetings with more than 50 staff are held in a six-hour window on Thursdays.

A few months after the policy was implemented, Deann Evans, Shopify director of EMEA partnerships and expansion told SiliconRepublic.com how it was going. She mentioned the exec team was working on experiments with an internal meeting cost calculator tool so staff could figure out how much money their meetings were costing.

Time is money

Introducing a meeting cost calculator tool may sound a little bit over the top to many, but Evans said the staff’s enthusiasm for the Chaos Monkey policy as a whole compelled the leadership team to really go all in on cutting meetings – and figuring out how much they cost when they do happen.

Shopify launched the meeting cost calculator a few weeks ago as a Chrome extension that appears within Google Calendar events for Shopify employees. It gives the organiser and meeting attendees an estimate of the meeting’s cost, said Evans. She added that by building the tool in-house Shopify was able to tailor it specifically to the company’s operations without having to change people’s workflows.

“The meeting cost calculator is here to challenge the status quo, nudging us to reconsider meeting necessity and explore more creative collaboration methods.

“At launch, the average size of a meeting includes three employees and lasts about half an hour. This typical meeting at Shopify costs around $700 – $1600. Removing three meetings per person each week would reduce the costs of meetings by around 15pc”

But Evans said that while the meeting cost calculator does offer information about meeting costs, it is not intended solely to highlight the dollar value of time spent in meetings.

“The meeting cost is based on data that illustrates average compensation by discipline and sub discipline, along with attendee count and meeting length. But it’s important to note, while it is the ‘cost calculator,’ the dollar value is not the point. The idea behind this tool is to offer a friendly tripwire so we can make efficient, intentional use of our time.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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