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Traveling for Business? WeWork Will Only Reimburse Your Meals If ...

July 17,2018 04:20

Is cutting your carbon footprint so important as to add an administrative headache and alienate employees?



WeWork announced that they would no longer have meat at company events and that if you submit a receipt for a hamburger purchased while on company travel, you won't be reimbursed. The goal is to lower WeWork's carbon footprint.

A noble goal, for sure. But, I'm not sure they've thought through the consequences of this decision. Only 3.3 percent of Americans are vegetarians or vegans, which means the meat ban will likely come across to employees as a negative rather than a positive. (It looks like fish is acceptable, so it's not a strict vegetarian policy.)

The difficulty of such a policy.

Having only vegetarian catered company events is easy. Whoever does the ordering chooses the menu and that shouldn't be too problematic. What is more problematic is that they will no longer reimburse meat as part of travel expenses.

Imagine you're the person in charge of travel reimbursement. You now have to scour receipts to make sure someone didn't get chicken on those nachos. And what if an employee takes a client or a job candidate out to eat? Is the employee required to say to the client (or job candidate), "Hey, you can't order that spaghetti Bolognese. No meat!" Because that won't go over well.

While they say they'll make exceptions for people with medical or religious needs, the exceptions have to be approved through a committee. Which means another layer of bureaucracy. It also means a trip to the doctor, which costs the employee money and time. And do you need a special condition in order to be allowed reimbursement for your breakfast pancakes and sausage? Or can it simply be "Jane needs to eat meat."? There will be some people who don't want to talk about their health issues at work and who will just pay their own costs. That's unfair.

If WeWork really wanted to lower its carbon footprint.

WeWork's core business is co-working spaces. Where would these people work, if not for WeWork? Well some of them would rent other office space. But some would work from home. Every person that drives into a WeWork office could drastically cut their own carbon footprint by working at their dining room table. 

Now, that would cut carbon footprints. It would also put WeWork out of business. But, if lowering carbon footprints is your goal, telecommuting is the way to do that. Additionally, why do you need to do business travel at all? Can you not hold meetings via Skype? If you want to purchase a new building, hire someone local rather than have someone from the corporate offices fly out? That would lower a carbon footprint.

WeWork will alienate employees and candidates.

Right now there are more open positions than there are people to fill them. Implementing a policy that will be annoying to the 96 percent of people who are meat eaters is probably not your best recruiting tool. 

While I fully support WeWork's ability to do this--businesses should be allowed to set their own standards for their company--it seems like a bad case of virtue signaling without worrying about actual impact. While I certainly eat vegetarian meals from time to time (I had zero meat over the weekend), if I was balancing two job offers and one would scrutinize my business meals for signs of hamburgers and the other would not, I might be inclined to turn down the offer from the company that cared more about what I ate on a business trip than what I accomplished. I suspect I'm not alone. 

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