The flexible office startup WeWork told its 6,000 employees last week that it would no longer pay for any red meat, poultry, or pork at company events or allow employees to expense meat meals, Bloomberg reported:
In an email to employees this week outlining the new policy, co-founder Miguel McKelvey said the firm’s upcoming internal “Summer Camp” retreat would offer no meat options for attendees. “New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact,” said McKelvey in the memo, “even more than switching to a hybrid car.” Individuals requiring “medical or religious” allowances are being referred to the company’s policy team to discuss options. A WeWork spokeswoman confirmed the contents of the memo.
Other startups have adopted no-meat policies, but these companies are predominantly makers of health and lifestyle products, which attract a specific set of customers and employees whose values and interests align with those policies. WeWork, by comparison, is a growing player in the global commercial real estate business with offices in 76 cities around the world. As such, Felix Salmon comments at Slate, the policy of banning meat (but not fish or eggs) at company-provided meals will likely “cause a ridiculous amount of agita for its frontline staffers and, especially, the benighted HR folks tasked with enforcing the policy.” He also criticizes the policy as internally incoherent when measured against its own stated purpose:
It bans lamb, for instance, and it bans chicken, but it doesn’t ban eggs. Eggs cause just as much environmental damage as chickens do, and much less than lamb does. It’s hard to see much environmental logic in a policy that’s fine with factory-farmed salmon but that forbids people from eating pigeon. (There are far too many pigeons in the world, eat as many as you want.)
The advent of the coworking space has been a boon to freelancers, startups, and nonprofit organizations, but last summer, the flexible workplace vendor WeWork revealed that its long-term strategy involved selling the coworking experience to major legacy corporations as well. On Wednesday, WeWork’s chief product officer David Fano and head of product research Joshua Emig announced that their company was working on a suite of “space as a service” offerings to help big companies revamp and better manage their existing office spaces, Fast Company’s Ruth Reader reports:
The new offerings would include everything from building out interiors to managing guests, booking conference rooms, coordinating events, analyzing office data on space usage, and providing a human community manager to instill WeWork philosophies. …
[Fano] says WeWork is only willing to architect and construct offices because it has design principles that play into how it manages office spaces. Additionally, he’s not looking to make money on overhauling other people’s workplaces. Rather, he and Emig see it as a way to give customers the cost savings that WeWork enjoys, because of its vendor relationships. The build-out also serves to entice businesses into its cultural management subscription as well as other possible uses for WeWork. As an example, Fano described how it whittled one Chicago business from three floors of office space down to two floors, while retaining the same number of employees. WeWork made up some of the square footage loss by giving the company desks inside of its own co-working network.
At Quartz, Alison Griswold points out that WeWork’s $17 billion valuation is “largely tied to WeWork’s ability to brand itself as more than just another property management firm”:
As the market for coworking space continues to grow, the flexible workspace provider WeWork has been courting large corporations to sell them a workplace solution more commonly associated with startups and freelancers. At the same time, however, a group of former WeWork executives are working on a project to disrupt that market by upending their former employer’s business model, Sarah Kessler reports at Fast Company:
WeWork’s basic business model is simple: The company rents large chunks of office space, breaks up that space into tiny offices and communal work spaces, sprinkles in good design and community features, and then subleases it to tenants at a huge mark-up. Landlords could make more money if they skipped the lease with WeWork and directly subleased to tenants, but typically, they don’t want to deal with all of the hassle involved in running a coworking space. “At the end of the day, it’s enormously human-labor intensive and operationally intensive,” says Bryan Woo, the director of acquisitions at real estate developer Young Woo. “[It’s like saying to a landlord], ‘Why don’t you operate the hotel?’”
The former WeWork employees’ new company, which does not yet have a name, removes some of this hassle by offering what Mark Kennedy, a partner on the project who has a background in private equity and real estate, has called “coworking in a box.” …
The flexible workplace market is large and growing, as more knowledge workers are able to do their jobs remotely. The core clientele for providers of coworking spaces has so far encompassed entrepreneurs, freelancers, scrappy startups, and nonprofit organizations, but one major player in the market, WeWork, has begun reaching out to large corporations as well, “betting that firms will trade suburban office parks and bland commercial towers for its hip, urban workspaces,” Rachel Feintzeig reports at the Wall Street Journal:
General Electric, KPMG LLP and Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. already house some employees in WeWork offices around the globe, and the 90-location WeWork is making a concentrated push to both land more corporate customers and spur existing ones to take on more space. A 10-person sales team is out pitching companies and chasing leads, and WeWork recently posted a job for a head of enterprise sales to grow membership among Fortune 1000 companies.