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One of Canada's biggest companies just announced a new anti-meeting policy

In a move that's almost guaranteed to attract talent, the Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify has embarked upon what it's calling a "calendar purge," all but eliminating the bane of every creative worker's existence: stupid meetings.

"To start 2023, we're cancelling all Shopify meetings with more than two people. Let's give people back their maker time," said the Ottawa-based company's COO, Kaz Nejatian, on Tuesday of the new policy.

"Companies are for builders. Not managers."

Cue applause from engineers, writers, artists, producers, analysts, editors, researchers, and every other corporate employee whose role involves quantifiable work — you know, the kind of work that businesses sell to make money.

Why must large groups of people sit around and talk about their work, after all, when they could actually be doing said work?

Why does Shannon the software developer need to hear about what Rudy in marketing saw in Ad Age last week? Why do 10 junior copywriters need to spend two hours listening to updates from the heads of departments they have nothing to do with?

Surely, this is a waste of resources, but it's painfully common in large organizations where middle managers must justify their existence at the expense of productivity.

"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," said Nejatian in an email announcing the new policy, which prohibits all meetings on Wednesdays and restricts meetings with 50+ people outside the hours of 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday.

"No one joined Shopify to sit in meetings."

All recurring meetings with three or more people have also been wiped from Shopify's employee calendars, clearing up some 10,000 blocks of space, according to the company.

"Large, long and unproductive meetings have become a scourge of today's hybrid workplace, prompting companies to try and curtail them. Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc., household product maker Clorox Co. and tech firm Twilio Inc. are among those that have instituted no-meeting days," reports Bloomberg in a story about Shopify's announcement.

"Employees spend about 18 hours a week on average in meetings, according to a survey conducted last year, and they only decline 14% of invites even though they'd prefer to back out of 31% of them. Reluctantly going to noncritical meetings wastes about $100 million a year at big organizations, the survey found."

University of North Carolina organizational science professor Steven Rogelberg said additionally to Bloomberg that poorly managed meetings "can also hurt employee engagement and even boost their intention to quit."

Shopify's move to scrap unnecessary meetings is only the latest in a long series of changes implemented by the company in recent years, and not all of them have panned out as well as executives may have hoped.

While Shopify remains the tenth-largest Canadian company by market capitalization, investors appear to be losing faith in what was once seen as a golden goose lately.

Shopify stock plummeted by a staggering 70 per cent over the past year, dragging down the entire Canadian stock market after losing $161 billion in market value in December.

The company turned heads in July by announcing that it would immediately be laying off 10 per cent of its global workforce, which was about 10,000 employees strong at the time.

Headquartered in Ottawa, Shopify had opened a sprawling nine-floor, 180,000-square-foot office in Toronto before the pandemic, in 2019, after closing its original Toronto office at King and Spadina.

Plans to open a new main office in one of downtown Toronto's most highly-anticipated forthcoming developments, The Well, were cancelled in late 2022.

The 16-year-old multinational tech company confirmed in December that it no longer plans to serve as The Well's anchor tenant, and will not be occupying a 254,000-square-foot office being built for them at the under-construction complex as planned.

"We recently made the decision not to move forward with developing a new office space at The Well," said Shopify spokesperson Alex Lyons in a statement at the time.

"Shopify continues to value highly intentional, in-person gatherings, and will continue to do so at our primary Toronto space located at King Portland Centre, with plans to further develop and expand into one central space to accommodate our needs."

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