With a new year often comes new resolutions; be it a dry January, a wardrobe clearout or – in the case of e-commerce firm Shopify – a meeting purge.
The Canadian firm has started the new year with a sweeping shift in the form of a ‘calendar purge’, which their Chief Operating Officer, Kez Nejatian, says will save them 76.500 hours from the elimination of 10,000 company events.
What is a calendar purge?
So what does their calendar purge actually involve? The firm has pledged to remove all recurring meetings with more than two attendees from their calendars, whilst banning meetings from taking place altogether on Wednesdays.
Employees have been encouraged to turn down meetings as and when they see fit, and to remove themselves from large internal group chats if they so desire.
Any larger meetings that require more than two people have been confined to a designated window on Thursdays.
Shopify co-founder and CEO Tobi Lukte commented:
“The best thing founders can do is subtraction. 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.”
A part of working and thriving
The team, which has already gone permanently remote since the pandemic, received an email from their COO announcing the news, in which it was stated:
“We can either go slow and deliberate, or fast and chaotic…
“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.”
But as chaotic as the move may be, research-backed evidence suggests a method in the perhaps perceived madness.
It’s estimated that employees attend an average of 62 meetings a month, and that 50% of these meetings are considered as time wasted. What’s more, research from software company Atlassian found that almost half (47%) of workers labelled meetings as the biggest time waster, whilst 45% of staff admitted to feeling overwhelmed by the number of meetings in their calendars.
A Shopify representative explained that the purge would give employees time to focus on getting work done – a task that can become close to impossible when someone has three or four 30-minute meetings in a morning, with little space between video calls for much else.
In good company
Shopify is not the first firm to enforce meeting cutbacks like this. Companies such as Meta, Dropbox, Asana, Virgin and Slack have all trialled similar changes to the way meetings operate amongst their workforces in recent times; including 48-hour calendar freezes, strict timekeeping rules that encourage short meetings, and completely digitalising conversations for weeks at a time.
Whilst trialling their declared ‘calendar bankruptcy’, founders of instant messaging platform Slack reported:
“We found that so many meetings could be eliminated or broken up into parts. For example, your monthly sales meeting might start with a status update. Why not send that out beforehand? Presentations can be shared as decks or asynchronous videos, so people can review them in their own time.
“Tactics like these can lessen your meeting time considerably, and then time together can be more meaningfully spent on meaty discussions or team building,”
Leaders like Virgin’s Richard Branson believe most meetings shouldn’t last longer than 10 minutes:
“A lot of time is wasted in meetings. Agendas get forgotten, topics go amiss, and people get distracted. While some circumstances call for workshops and more elaborate presentations, it’s very rare that a meeting on a single topic should need to last more than 5-10 minutes.”
So, should your business introduce a calendar purge?
Meeting-free policies like Shopify’s are a relatively new concept, emerging as part of a growing demand for more flexible working practices. But early research already indicates profound results.
One study from France’s NEOMA Business School, which looked into 76 companies that had introduced meeting-free days to their workweek, noted that productivity rose sharply by as much as 71% in companies that had allocated two meeting-free days a week.
Greater autonomy, better communication and an enhanced employee satisfaction rate were also reported. At the same time, micromanagement and stress levels were said to decrease.
While meetings are a vital part of connectivity and decision-making, keeping them under half an hour, wherever possible, and adding a meeting-free day to the workweek, could evidently be an effective way of boosting productivity in your company.
What are your thoughts?
Would you consider trialling a calendar purge in your workplace? Or have you already introduced a meeting-free day to your workweek?
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Leave a comment below.
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