Canadian tech giant Shopify is kicking off 2023 by temporarily scrapping most meetings, part of the floundering company's effort to free up employee time.
The move, announced to staff Tuesday in an internal memo obtained by CBC Toronto, will be in effect for the next two weeks. The Ottawa-based e-commerce colossus says it will mean 76,500 hours previously set aside for meetings can be used for other work.
"We've introduced changes to reimagine how we can make the biggest impact on our mission of making commerce better for everyone," said Kaz Nejatian, Shopify's vice president of product and COO, in a statement outlining the plan.
"Uninterrupted time is the most precious resource of a craftsperson, and we are giving our people a 'no judgment zone' to subtract, reject meetings, and focus on what is most valuable."
Recurring meetings with three or more people, all meetings on Wednesdays and meetings with 50 or more people outside of Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET will all be cancelled. The changes will wipe nearly 10,000 events from employee calendars, the company said.
This also means better use of the small gaps available between meetings, where many employees weren't able to get much done, the statement added.
The memo urged staff to be "be really, really critical" about what meetings they'll add back into their daily routines after the two-week trial period.
"No one joined Shopify to sit in meetings," Nejatian wrote to employees.
The new approach to meetings comes after the company scrapped a plan to move some of its staff into a sprawling 243,000-square-foot office space in downtown Toronto in December, citing its focus on remote work.
Shopify's valuation has taken a severe hit in recent months as explosive growth in its online selling business model slowed from its peak during the COVID-19 pandemic. At one point in mid-2020, Shopify became the most valuable company in Canada, topping the Royal Bank of Canada, with a valuation of almost $300 billion.
In July 2022, the company laid off roughly 1,000 employees, or about 10 per cent of its workforce.
The value of employee time
Tim Magwood, partner and co-founder of Toronto human resources consulting firm 1-DEGREE/Shift, says a calendar purge in the beginning of the year is an "excellent" idea that can make leaders be more conscious about the meetings they're setting up.
"I think there are too many meetings that we are in as leaders and people that don't have a clear purpose," he said.
"If we are subtracting things to place an emphasis more on, you know, purposeful meetings that create connection, create community, create focus, that's great."
Linda Nazareth, an economist and host of the Work and the Future podcast, called the initiative interesting. While she's not sure it's going to work long-term, it's an effort by the company to recognize a shift in workplace values, she told CBC Radio's Metro Morning.
"I think it's kind of a realization that workers feel differently about things, they're more concerned about the value of their time," Nazareth said.
"I would be kind of scared that some of these managers will go back to, you know, what they're used to in the norms, but it's really great that they've at least acknowledged that this is a big waste of time."
This year, other companies are likely to try other innovative approaches in an effort to connect with workers amidst a labour shortage and cultural changes in how employees value work, she added.
"They might not try exactly this, but I think they'll try a lot of things because there has been a realization that workers aren't exactly the same as they were pre-pandemic," Nazareth said.