Office Drama: Are Expense Reports the Cause of Employee Dissatisfaction?


If you ever stop by the break room to eavesdrop on your employees' conversations, you might hear the phrase “expense report” uttered as an expletive. Workers don't like expense reports any more than their employers do, especially when it comes time to prepare them and turn them in. Why? Following are a few of the most critical reasons.

A Financial Fiasco
Everyone manages money differently. You might think living paycheck-to-paycheck sounds like playing with fire, but plenty of people do it. If your workers don't maintain a financial safety net, fronting business expenses can result in serious cash-flow issues at home.

Plus, it's embarrassing for employees to tell their bosses that next week's business trip is out of the question because they don't have the money to cover the expenses. Avoiding workplace stress is essential if you want your employees to function effectively.

A Blip in the Budget
Let's say your star employee has to travel to Trinidad for a conference. He or she must lay out the money for airfare, a rental car, the hotel room, and meals, then wait at least 30 days to see that money from your company. When personal expenses rear their ugly heads, his or her lack of cash or quick reimbursement can be a stressful burden. The more money the employee lays out, the more he or she is frustrated at the employer and anxious about lack of funds, late fees and interest charges.

A Paucity of Proof
Receipts are slippery pieces of paper that get dropped on city streets, soaked in coffee, and shredded in the washing machine. If your employee loses the receipt for an expenditure, he or she risks a denial from the finance department at work after submitting an expense report. While the business might not suffer as a result, the employee sure does.

Even when employees don't lose receipts, they have to save and record them all. This adds time to their day, takes away from productivity and can cause anxiety as they sort through all of their receipts and match them with bank statements. It's even worse when an employee has to make a business purchase along with a personal one.

A Roadblock on the Runway
You don't hire an employee to take up space in an office. You want him or her to make money for your business. That isn't possible if you use an outdated expense-report system that requires workers to fill out reams of paperwork before they're authorized to spend money. Expense reports complicate the on-boarding process and lead to frustration — not to mention lost profits.

A Snag in Strategy
Companies that use expense reports often force their management teams to act more like parents than business leaders. Employees have to clear purchases that exceed a certain monetary threshold, so they miss out on opportunities and feel like they've somehow transported themselves to a time when they had to ask Mom and Dad for the keys to the car. If you do away with expense reports, however, employees can act autonomously and feel like valued members of your team. Enabling employees to spend doesn’t necessarily mean that employers are giving up control. Prepaid platforms and software that allows for automated expense reporting making reporting seamless and in real-time. 

If it sounds like expense reports are a bad idea, you're not misreading this article. Employees (and employers) often despise them, which is why it's essential to find a more pragmatic solution.

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