In a series of new changes announced at the company this week, e-commerce giant Shopify may have just begun the next phase of its work-from-home revolution.
Two years after CEO and founder Toby Lütke announced The end of “office centricity” as Shopify embraces remote working, workers returning from holiday breaks this week are expecting another big change at the company.
Shopify will eliminate all recurring meetings with more than two people in order to give employees more time to work on other tasks, Kaz Nejatian, Shopify’s vice president of product and chief operating officer, told employees in an email Tuesday. Luck.
The changes, which take effect immediately, will also see no events scheduled on Wednesdays, and any large gatherings of more than 50 people can only be held on Thursdays between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. ET. Senior meetings are limited to one per week.
No more meetings
The changes to Shopify’s operating structure will eliminate 10,000 company events, or the equivalent of more than 76,500 meeting hours, a company spokeswoman said. Luck.
Nejatian called the policy change a “helpful exit” that would free employees from the excessive time currently spent in meetings. In an email to employees Tuesday, he urged them not to add any meetings to their calendars for at least two weeks and to be “really critical” when deciding whether to add a meeting to schedules at all.
In a statement, Shopify CEO Lütke called the approach “calendar cleansing.” Luck.
“The best thing founders can do is quit,” he said in a recent interview with The Knowledge Project Podcast. “It’s easier to add things than to delete them. If you say yes to one thing, you’re actually saying no to everything you can do at that time.”
Remote work changes
With a large portion of the workforce continuing to log in from home offices, changes to the modern workday are coming fast and hard.
Between 2019 and 2021, the share of US workers working from home increased from 5.7% to nearly 18%, according to Census data, as the pandemic forced companies to change their operating structures to accommodate remote work. While some companies continue to force their employees to come to the office at least a few days a week, others embrace the change entirely.
A number of tech companies, including Coinbase, Atlassian and Airbnb, have announced that they will continue to favor remote or hybrid work after the pandemic ends. In 2020, Lütke announced that Shopify’s “digital by standard company,” and said most workers will still be allowed to work from home after the pandemic.
In some sectors, the steady shift to remote or hybrid work has prompted many companies to adopt a more-or-less approach to virtual meetings, which many remote workers criticize for being unproductive and interfering with their other work. “Augment fatigue” became a popular phenomenon early in the pandemic, as workers reported feeling burned out and exhausted from virtual meetings.
According to a 2022 Microsoft study, companies compensated for the lack of in-person interaction by spending more time in virtual meetings at the start of the pandemic, with time spent in meetings tripling in the first two years of the pandemic. But not all of these meetings were strictly necessary, and many could have resulted in sunk costs for companies.
According to a 2022 study by transcription service Otter.ai, cutting out pointless meetings at companies with more than 100 employees could save firms more than $2 million a year. For large companies with more than 5,000 employees, the savings increased to $100 million per year.
But while too many unnecessary meetings can lead to a loss of productivity in companies, some workers have defended the role of virtual meetings in the remote workplace. A 2021 study by virtual assistant app Polly found that 93% of employees rated well-structured virtual meetings as an efficient use of their time, mainly because they allow employees to connect with colleagues and feel more connected to the company.
In an email to Shopify employees, Nejatian said moving away from repetitive meetings also means moving away from unproductive schedules and freeing up more time for employees to focus on their work.
“We can either go slow and deliberate or fast and chaotic. We are going fast and chaotic,” he wrote. “We know it’s going to feel chaotic, but that’s the point. Intentional chaos is not good, and it’s part of working and growing at Shopify.”
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