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Revealing Meeting Costs Isn't About Shame

Revealing Meeting Costs Isn't About Shame

Unless you’ve been under an internet rock for the last couple of days, you’ve probably seen the headlines flying around about Shopify’s new effort to “shame employees with a cost calculator for pointless meetings.” The company’s latest efforts — which were discussed in the news well after we had begun building Meeting Cost Calculator — have received heavy attention for the last few days via the likes of…





Business Insider


Fast Company


And of course, Twitter.

Just to name a few. 

I’m not certain which of the outlets above coined the headline describing Shopify’s new tool as a mechanism for “shame.” Needless to say, it’s not a characterization that we agree with. 

Meeting culture is undeniably broken across most companies. We’ve spent the last few months researching how teams conduct, and create value in, meetings within their organizations. The data is alarming to say the least. According to a variety of sources:

  • The average time workers spend in meetings has increased by 252% since the start of the pandemic. 
  • The average number of weekly meeting invites has increased by 153% in the same time period. 
  • It’s estimated that office workers spend an average of 18 hours per week in meetings. 
  • Meeting time costs approximately $25,000 per employee, annually.
  • Even prior to the pandemic, 71% of managers thought meetings were unproductive.
  • Collectively, companies spend roughly $37 billion on meetings per year. 
  • Employees estimate that they don’t need to be included in 30% of the meetings they attend. 

As we set out to solve these problems — for our team and others, we wanted to provide leadership teams with the necessary tools and data to productively evaluate and consider internal meeting culture. Our dashboard provides valuable data and analytics around teams’ meeting habits that only admins have access to. 

We are also nearly ready to release a calendar plugin that displays approximated meeting costs to employees. I’d like to emphasize approximate here — we have taken an extremely considered approach toward this feature so that we can ensure privacy around salary data for employees. By default, meeting cost data is only displayed for meetings of 4 or more people, and even then the data is obfuscated by a randomized percentage. 

We do NOT display the hourly cost per employee in a meeting. 

Again, we have taken these steps in an effort to limit employees’ ability to calculate how much they think a colleague is making. Ultimately, the team admin has control over who sees what data and can override these default settings, but it has to be done as a conscientious choice by the team admin. 

The purpose of this feature is not to shame employees into canceling meetings. The notion that we, Shopify, or any other company that wants greater insight into meeting costs is trying to shame their employees is misguided. If employees are aware of how their choices impact their company’s bottom line, then they are empowered to make considered choices about how meeting time is spent and how to make that time effective and productive.

Since implementing Meeting Cost Calculator across our company and a few others during our beta testing period, we have seen remarkable results that have undeniably had a positive impact on our team:

  • 41% decrease in meetings
  • 20% increase in meeting-free days, weekly
  • 28% increase in productivity across teams
  • 47% increase in focused work time

Shame not included. 

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