Access to adequate toilet facilities is a basic human need and as such, should be freely available in any setting, including the workplace.
In most cases, particularly in office environments, this is already a given but not all workplace toilet facilities are created equal. In reality, some toilet facilities are not at par with basic standards of quality and safety. This, in turn, can affect overall employee morale and happiness.
In the UK, the Approved Code of Practice for the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 provides guidelines for the adequate number and quality of workplace toilets.
For women-only and mixed-use toilets, the recommended ratio of people to facilities is as follows:
|Number of people at work||Number of toilets||Number of washbasins|
For toilets assigned to men:
|Number of men at work||Number of toilets||Number of washbasins|
Having adequate facilities also means that people should not have to queue for a long time when they need to use the toilet. It also means separate facilities for men and women, both with lockable doors. It means toilets should be clean, properly maintained and equipped with a steady supply of toilet paper, soap, hot and cold running water, and drying facilities, among others. For women’s toilets, a means for disposing sanitary dressing is also necessary.
Of course, workplaces should also have the necessary toilet provisions for employees with disabilities.
If employees are required to carry out “dirty work”, showers must be available to use. A suitable washing facility should be close to a changing room, has hot and cold water, and has provisions for cleaning (soap) and drying (towels). Like toilet facilities, it should be well-lit and well-ventilated, with lockable doors, and with separate facilities for men and women. In some cases, employers can also provide a shared-use room that can be secured from the inside and that are intended for use by one person at a time.
A changing room should also be provided for work environments wherein employees are required to change into specialist clothing. These rooms should be easily accessible and equipped with provisions for seating, washing, hanging clothes and storage.
Why is it important?
A clean work environment, which includes toilet facilities, promotes a healthier work environment. It will reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria, which can spread in the workplace and adversely affect performance and attendance. In effect, this can support productivity goals.
In some cases, poorly maintained workplace toilets can drive employees to search farther for more suitable toilets which takes time away from work or a proper break time. It can even cause workplace injuries, for which employers can be held liable.
Poor workplace toilet facilities can affect employee morale because it reflects a management that does not care about something as basic as hygiene and sanitation or that does not “walk the talk.” After all, a high-performing team must be equipped with all the necessary tools and avenues to succeed, including access to a clean workspace toilet. Failure to provide this can result in a workplace rife with disgruntlement and resentment, which can also reflect in the quality of work output and even in employee turnover.
On the contrary, a clean, well-maintained and thoughtfully designed toilet can boost morale by making the workplace a conducive space for working. It instils a sense of pride in employees, and when employees are happy, productivity also improves.
For companies which entertain clients in their office, a well-maintained toilet facility is an extension of the organisation’s branding and image. It helps leave a positive impression on prospective or existing clients, visitors or potential employees and partners. The toilet may not be the top-of-mind destination when visiting a workplace, but it does leave a lasting impact—whether that is negative or positive depends on the condition of the facilities.
Improving workplace morale—one toilet at a time
Recognising the crucial role of clean toilets in boosting employee morale and happiness, many employers are now making an effort to, not just follow the basic guidelines, but also implement simple improvements with lasting impact.
For instance, some employers or building administrators choose light colours for the toilet to visually reiterate that overall sense of cleanliness. Of course, it should really be kept clean because dirt is more easily seen in a lightly coloured toilet.
Some workplace toilets also have speakers that play soft background music to emphasise that sense of privacy or that feeling of being away from the hustle and bustle of the space outside. This effort to create a multi-sensory experience can transform the toilet from just a functional space to a private sanctuary where employees or guests can relax, recharge or rethink.
Some workplaces do not just create a multi-sensory experience; they recreate that feeling of home through design elements that mimic typical household toilet aesthetics.
This can include patterned wallpapers instead of just plain white walls and provision of ‘extras’ for added convenience like phone rests, magazines, bag hooks, air freshener, free hand lotions and mouthwash, pull-out tissue boxes and a “vanity space” for those who want to retouch. Even the addition of a full-length mirror can make a notable difference to the overall feel of a workplace toilet.
Even the location of the toilet can be strategic in cultivating a certain vibe in the workplace. In many offices, upper management team members have their own separate toilets. This set-up is traditional and acceptable in most cases. However, a strategically located toilet can promote social interaction among employees, especially among those from separate teams that rarely work together.
Access to a clean and comfortable toilet has a huge impact on workplace relations and performance.
Remember: The workplace toilet, when properly managed and strategically designed, can become a platform for managers and employers to cultivate a positive vibe, boost morale, and consequently, encourage improved overall performance.