E-commerce giant Shopify welcomed its staff back from their Christmas holiday last week by announcing a “calendar purge” to give employees more time to work on other tasks.

The changes, which are effective immediately, include removing all recurring meetings with more than two people “in perpetuity,” shoehorning meetings of more than 50 people into a six-hour window on Thursdays, and limiting big meetings to once a week. Meanwhile, Wednesdays will become a no-meeting day and employees have been urged to be “really critical” when deciding whether to add a meeting back to schedules at all.

In an email, Kaz Nejatian, Shopify’s vice president of product and chief operating officer, told employees that the shift away from recurring meetings also meant moving away from unproductive schedules and unlocking 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. “While we know this will feel chaotic, that’s the point. Intentional chaos is more than okay, and it’s part of working and thriving at Shopify.”

In total, the calendar cull will free up more than 76,500 hours of meetings, a company spokesperson told Fortune.

Do fewer meetings actually make staff more productive? 

Yes and no. 

Ayelet Fishbach, professor of behavioral science and marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, says that cracking down on large meetings decreases the likelihood of group decision-making issues like “social loafing” and “conformity pressure.” 

Social loafing happens when people reduce their effort, assuming someone else will pick up the slack. Meanwhile, conformity pressure happens when people converge early on an idea that is presented in the meeting before they’ve had a chance to think independently about the issues.

“The risk is you may end up with 10 people thinking like one person,” she says. 

Plus, while the social interaction that comes with meetings is crucial to employee wellbeing and engagement, big meetings where employees are talked at aren’t. 

“Meetings that require passive participation don’t offer social interactions and don’t increase engagement. They might even decrease engagement if people feel their day is wasted on meetings,” Fishbach adds.

But Amrit Sandhar, founder of The Engagement Coach, which works with brands such as Bupa and Dunelm to increase employee engagement, describes the changes as “more like something from Elon Musk’s playbook on improving efficiency, than preparing the organization for change.”

As much as employees may complain about meetings wasting their time, for remote workers it might be the only chance to interact with other colleagues across the organization and feel a part of the company culture. 

“Remove the interactions, and you remove any sense of belonging with the organization, leaving people to pursue jobs offering greater connection elsewhere,” Sandhar cautions. 

Plus, although the leaders at Shopify probably imagined workers would breathe a sigh of relief at their meeting-free calendar, in reality, swift changes like this could actually cause undue uncertainty and stress among workers.

“Change creates uncertainty — even desired change,” he says, adding that “change for the sake of change only causes disruption, adding to an already pressured workload.”

How to strike a balance between meeting overload and lonely remote workers

“Meetings don’t need to be banished completely, it’s just the ineffective, time-wasting ones that do,” says Ben Thompson, CEO and co-founder of Employment Hero.

But cancel all communication and businesses risk having unaccountable workers running around like headless chickens.

Fishbach echoes that “fewer meetings can increase their wellbeing. But that’s assuming remote workers aren’t missing out on critical information such as new directions for the team or promotion opportunities.”

For remote workers to be productive and engaged, businesses need to ensure that they’re replacing meetings with other effective ways of sharing information and enabling colleagues to connect — instead of cutting out communication and collaboration altogether.  

Thompson suggests that leaders consider which digital tools work best for different forms of communication. For example, Slack might be a better way of making sure individual team members are on top of their work, rather than a big team meeting where everyone talks through their to-do list. 

“Chosing the right remote meeting platform will come down to understanding what it is your team needs to collaborate and communicate effectively,” he adds.

Alternatively, employers could empower workers to push back on meetings they feel are productivity-draining. A simple criterion for declining meetings could be allowing workers to ask themselves if there is anything they can contribute to the meeting and if the outcome will be any different if they aren’t there. Then for employee engagement and to build company culture among remote workers, leaders could allocate optional time aside for casual conversation.

“Organizations that focus on reframing meetings as an avenue to demonstrate the organization’s culture, allowing time to socialize as well as interacting with colleagues to achieve great results, will have more engaged and committed remote employees than those that choose to reduce or remove them altogether,” Sandhar adds.

Overall, it’s the quality of the meetings that matter not the quantity. 

Striking that balance between overloading workers’ calendars and leaving them isolated is important. Otherwise, Sandhar and Fishbach warn that firms risk looking like they don’t value socialization, which is needed to stimulate creativity and innovation, as well as the sanity of remote workers.

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