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WeWork warned employees not to put glass cleaner in tenants’ mouthwash containers

Mouthwash containers are located the bathrooms of WeWork offices

Business Insider/Rob Price

WeWork has warned employees that they could be fired if they put glass cleaner or “another potentially harmful substance” into the mouthwash containers the office-sharing company provides to tenants.

In an internal memo known as a Community Standard that was seen by Business Insider, WeWork also advised employees about how to deal with tenants who complain that they ingested cleaning supplies from the mouthwash containers in its bathrooms.

Business Insider could not confirm details of any particular incident that may have prompted the memo. WeWork employees first alerted Business Insider to the internal memo in October.

When asked about the memo and any incidents that may have prompted it a WeWork spokesperson said: “We regularly update our guidelines to ensure proper management of our spaces. This includes ensuring that our staff has the resources to respond promptly to incidents that arise, and developing processes to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.”

Back in October, there were reports that WeWork was watering down the mouthwash in some locations to save money after the company's failed IPO, and before the company signed a bail-out financing deal with Softbank, The RealDeal reported.

Acknolwegde complaints and “protect the company's legal interests”

The internal memo seen by Business Insider does not mention specific incidents of mouthwash dispensers being filled with cleaning fluid instead of the traditional blue gargle. Nor does it address whether WeWork's concerns relate to intentional sabotage, reckless cost-cutting or mere incompetence by staff.

Instead, the memo focuses on the consequences of such incidents to tenants, the company and employees.

“Placing glass cleaner or another potentially harmful substance in mouthwash containers may expose WeWork members, staff and guests to physical harm, discomfort or distress,” the document warns. “In addition, such occurrences place WeWork at significant risk of legal or regulatory exposure including financial damages and reputation harm.”

It tells employees that “those responsible risk facing disciplinary action or termination. It is, therefore, imperative that the community team takes training and executing all cleaning-related tasks seriously and with a keen attention to detail.”

The document also offers instructions to WeWork employees “if a member, staff or guess approaches you and claims to have ingested cleaning supplies.”

WeWork wants employees to make note of the incident, “acknowledging the complaint and vowing to get to the bottom of it” and, most especially, protect the company's legal interests, the document says.

“As with any incident within the WeWork community, you should communicate with individuals in a manner that exemplifies WeWork's commitment to customer service and professionalism but does not inadvertently waive or forfeit any of WeWork's legal rights,” the document says.

WeWork has fielded its fair share of issues with the services it provides to tenants including warning tenants last month that thousands of the phone booths it designed contained elevated levels of formaldehyde.

The latest memo is being discussed internally, employees tell us, as the level of anger at the company rises. Employees have told us that on some of the company's Slack channels, employees are openly disparaging the company.

Instead of the spectacular IPO that WeWork management had promised, which failed after questions ranging from WeWork's business model to its culture arose after the company filed its IPO paperwork.

The company's is now about to cut thousands of jobs this week, including cleaning and facilities staff.

In November, Business Insider obtained a leaked memo confirming WeWork is planning on outsourcing its cleaning and facilities staff. That's a reversal of co-CEO Artie Minson's 2015 decision to end WeWork's outsourcing contracts and bring those employees in-house. In 2015, WeWork's janitors, who were working for a contractor, protested over low wages and benefits. The janitors at that time had threatened to unionize.

It's also worth noting that Business Insider has talked to dozens of WeWork employees since the company first intended to go public. While many are angry or frustrated with the company and its downfall, the people we talked to are genuinely interested in the well-being of the tenants, known internally as “members.”

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