Shopify continues to attract attention for it’s ridiculously reductionist takes on productivity, from meeting armageddon to more recently a meeting cost calculator.

The trope of “wow that was an expensive meeting” is an old one, based on the idea of adding up the hourly salary of all people in the room (especially the HIPPOs) as a way to express opportunity cost. It can be a useful meme for emphasizing the cost of poorly run meetings: those without agendas, those allowed to run long, those allowed to conclude without action items, or those that tremble as if they were mad. But it isn’t meant to be taken literally and used to shame your employees. That’s just dumb. (though the fun fact coming out of Shopify’s endeavor is apparently Tobi’s hourly wage, for meeting purposes at least, is $310).

Meetings can be dreadful, draining, and distracting, and lead to deadlocks waiting for limited overlapping free time, or limited conference rooms.

Meetings can also be useful for a wide variety of purposes, including a few needful activities like:

  1. Getting and clarifying information
  2. Building shared understanding
  3. Recognition and celebration
  4. Reinforcing values
  5. Building social bonds and trust

One reason we see so many senior leaders in particular drawn to the idea of cancelling meetings is we aren’t in danger of not getting the information, understanding, recognition, and trust to do our jobs, it will still flow upward to us, whether or not the weekly meeting happens.

A Couple of Alternatives

At Dropbox we had “Core Collaboration Hours”. As a company that went from a very HQ centric culture to pivoting hard in the early days of the pandemic to being a virtual first one, CCH created time block when you could count on being able to book times with a colleague, and times when you could count on getting in the flow. It was great.

At we’re 6 weeks into “Huddle Days”. Huddle Days are built around the insight that collaboration on a distributed team is harmed when grabbing 3 people for a 15 minute chat becomes the work of hours of calendar Tetris. Twice weekly Huddle Days are days where no reoccurring meetings are scheduled, and people are encouraged to use the Slack Huddle feature over the booking a meeting with attached video conference. Think of it as the classic “No Meeting Day”, but iterated to address the honored-more-in-the-breach aspect of that practice.

Both work great. And neither of them require a Chrome plugin, or shame, to work.