Cut the Costs of Meetings: Strategies for Eliminating Unnecessary Hours in the Workplace


Business Strategy

Written By: Ahmed Avais

Shopify made headlines when they announced that they were eliminating over 76,500 hours of meetings in an effort to increase productivity and allow their employees to focus on more meaningful work. The decision to cut down on the number of meetings was widely applauded by many, especially those who had long lamented the time-consuming and often unproductive event. A typical workday usually involved attending at least two or three meetings for employees across many departments, which not only hampered productivity but also caused stress due to the lack of physical activity and frequent mental fatigue. Not only did it create a feeling of monotony, but it also took away valuable time that could have been spent working on tasks or simply taking a break. For these reasons, reducing the number of office meetings was an important step in creating healthier workplace environments.

Negative consequences of excessive meetings

As someone who has worked in a variety of corporate settings, I can personally attest to the fact that unnecessary meetings are a major drain on productivity. These meetings are often a waste of time and resources, as they tend to meander off-topic and can be difficult to bring back on track. Many people waste their time discussing inconsequential matters, only to find no results in the end. As a result, follow-up meetings must be held. Furthermore, having too many meetings one after another disrupts momentum and leaves nothing achieved – if we take into account the cost of meetings, it is painfully expensive (see at the end of the article for ways to calculate meeting costs.) We must therefore strive for gentle practices that allow us to save both time and money.

At the same time, there are people in the meeting focused on their own agendas and competing with one another for attention instead of collaborating towards a common goal. This leads to conflict and frustration while also slowing down progress. Even when the outcome of these meetings is tangible and productive, it often takes much longer than it should have due to the inefficient use of time.

How much are meetings costing you?

To help rationalize the savings from reducing unnecessary meetings, there are several meeting cost calculators available online. These tools can help you calculate the cost of a meeting based on factors such as the number of attendees, the duration of the meeting, and the hourly wage of each participant. Here’s a basic calculator from HBR and another calculator from Fellow.

Positive aspects of productive meetings

It’s important to note that while excessive and unnecessary meetings can be a drain on productivity, meetings can still be a valuable tool when done correctly. “Where the Action Is: The Meetings That Make or Break Your Organization” by J. Elise Keith is a book that emphasizes on the importance of effective meetings in an organization. Keith argues that meetings are essential for creating a culture of accountability and aligning people around common goals. She stresses on the idea that meetings are not just a necessary evil, but an opportunity for organizations to bring the best out of their people and achieve great results.

In reality meetings are a platform for people to come together, share information, discuss ideas, make decisions, and resolve any issues. Meetings can foster communication, collaboration and help stay aligned and focused. 

Strategies for eliminating unnecessary meetings

So, how can organizations eliminate unnecessary meetings for good? One strategy is to be more mindful about the purpose of each meeting. Before scheduling a meeting, ask yourself if it is truly necessary, or if the same objectives could be achieved through other means.

Another approach is to set clear agendas and time limits for meetings. This can be particularly useful for larger meetings, when physical meetings are logistically difficult or cost-prohibitive. Video conferences enable everyone to participate in the meeting from anywhere, allowing for a more efficient and organized exchange of ideas. Additionally, document sharing, screen sharing, and whiteboarding tools can further facilitate collaboration and help keep you on track. Furthermore, video conferencing also allows participants to use facial expressions and body language to better communicate their ideas which can make discussions more effective. Lastly, many of these tools provide recordings and transcripts of meetings which is convenient for quickly referencing important points.

In summary, Shopify’s decision to eliminate 76,500 hours of meetings is a bold move that highlights the importance of being mindful about the number of meetings we have in the workplace. By being more selective about the meetings we schedule, setting clear agendas and time limits, and utilizing technology to facilitate collaboration, we can all work towards a future with fewer unnecessary meetings.

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