New year, new remote work strategy! On Jan. 3, 2023, the COO of major tech e-commerce company Shopify sent a company-wide memo announcing a sweeping change that is intended to give workers back their time and start the new year with a lot less on their calendar. Going forward, most meetings will be done away with, and whatever remains will have to follow strict guidelines to stay on workers’ calendars.
According to CNN, Shopify COO Kaz Nejatian informed via memo of the new policy. In the memo, Nejatian explained that any meeting involving three or more people would automatically be removed from the schedule, and there would be a “two-week cooling off period” before considering adding meetings back to the calendar.
In addition, Shopify announced large meetings with 50 or more people would only be able to be scheduled during a a six-hour window on Thursdays, and Wednesdays would be marked as meeting-free, per CNN. The deleted meetings cleared up more than 76,500 hours from the work calendars of its employees. Shopify is also instituting a “no judgment zone” to encourage employees to cancel meetings whenever they see fit.
The move comes at a time when workers are spending more hours in meetings than ever, which shifted when remote work ramped up during the pandemic's beginning. A Microsoft report released in March 2022 found that the company had a 252% increase in time spent in weekly meetings since February 2020, per Quartz.
However, studies have shown that additional time in meetings doesn’t translate to any positive gains for the employees or the company. One study found that when time spent in meetings was reduced by 80%, employee productivity increased by nearly 75%. That same study also found that less time spent in meetings helped reduce employee stress levels by more than 60%.
In his email memo, Nejatian explained that the decision to do away with most meetings and place strict guidelines for the meetings that stay on the calendar is a win-win for companies and employees.
“No one joined Shopify to sit in meetings,” Nejatian wrote, per CNN. “We can either go slow and deliberate or fast and chaotic. We are going fast and chaotic,” he continued. “While we know this will feel chaotic, that’s the point. Intentional chaos is more than okay, and it’s part of working and thriving at Shopify.”
In addition to the new meeting policy, Shopify is also changing how the workplace uses communication tools such as Slack, calling its usage “bloated, noisy, and distracting.” Instead, the company will prioritize being “super intentional” about how it shares information with employees.
Shopify isn’t the first large company that has, over the pandemic, tried to alter how its workplace functions. Over the past few years, several global companies have trialed, and permanently chosen, a 4-day workweek, and others increased benefits like PTO allotment or bettered parental leave, which has proven successful.
Although Shopify’s policy changes are not the same as moving to fewer hours per week, shifting to intentional-only meetings and communications will help edge productivity and could help allow workers to disconnect at the end of the workday.