Ottawa

This man's meeting calculator adds up the true cost of doing business

On his first day as a civil servant, Sean Boots found himself stuck in a seemingly endless meeting. Now the former tech sector worker has designed a tool to measure the true cost of these workplace get-togethers.

Idea for online time-management tool came to Sean Boots in moment of inspiration

Sean Boots has designed a calculator that tabulates the cost of meetings in the public service, using readily available salary data. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

On his first day as a federal government employee, Sean Boots had an insight.

"I had this moment of realization that's like, 'Oh right, government — it has meetings!' I just hadn't really anticipated that coming from the fast-paced tech world," said Boots, who works as a technical adviser at the Canadian Digital Service in Ottawa.

"You just do the math, and you're like, 'This meeting probably costs hundreds of dollars!'"

Boots took that moment of inspiration, paired it with his programming background and came up with a "meeting cost calculator" that uses publicly accessible salary data to measure the cost of civil service meetings.

Users can input the number of people in the room, their positions in the federal government, and hit start on the calculator's timer.

As the meeting drags on, the dollar value in the top-right corner goes up and up.

Sean Boots' calculator lets users input the length of the public service meeting, the number of people in the room, and their job positions. It then spits out the cost. (meetingcostcalculator.ca)

"A friend who's in the military ran the numbers on a 100-person meeting with captains and sergeants ... it definitely [went] into the thousands of dollars," Boots told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Wednesday.

"One of the features that I would love to add to the calculator at some point would be a high scores feature, like old computer games, [to find out] who had the most expensive meeting this week or this month!"

'Your time is worth something'

Joking aside, Boots said he designed the calculator — which is available online for free — in part so civil servants would better appreciate their time.

While he was initially hesitant to mention the tool to his own team, Boots said they were "really supportive," even adopting the calculator themselves after its debut.

"Your time is worth something. And if the meeting is valuable? Great!" Boots told Ottawa Morning.

"If it's not really accomplishing something, maybe there's something more high-impact that you could be working on."

In a bad meeting every minute can feel like a waste of time and money. Now you can figure out exactly how much. We meet the public servant who's created an online tool to calculate the cost of government meetings. 5:50

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