Toilets in The Workplace

I’m introducing a new initiative that seeks to critically analyse the lavatory conditions of the agencies in which I work in 2014. The initiative will assess conditions such as privacy, proximity of lavatory to colleagues, number of cubicles, urinal dividers and height of doors. Toilets are a vital part of the workplace, the comfortable use of which is a fundamental human right.

Assessment 1: A medium-large design agency in affluent south yarra. Expectations: high.

Analysis: extremely disappointing. It is clear the owner of the company has no appreciation of toilet culture. The space within the lavatory is very small, meaning tension in the toilet is always high. Two urinals only, close proximity to one another, no divider. This means upon entering the toilet and seeing an anxious colleague hunched at the urinal, you are forced to make a snap decision: hunch next to him with little hope of the privacy needed at high risk of stage fright, or conduct a walk out. A walk out is a sign of weakness, especially if the urinator turned to look at you upon entering.  It is a no win situation.

The location of any workplace toilet is critical to its success. The toilet of the agency in question is located in the heart of the workplace, meaning that if you should suffer the misfortune of needing to do a poo, you are required to do the walk of shame. It also demands a silent poo, so as to avoid colleagues hearing the soundtrack to last nights dinner. The tiny lavatory space means your only chance of ever achieving a poo is to hope no-one is in the lavatory upon entry. If the coast is clear (and clean), a panic poo is encouraged. This means pooing as fast as you can, the aim being to have finalised your poo before a colleague enters. If you poo fast enough, you can create the impression to your colleagues that you were simply doing an extended pee, followed by some vanity in the mirror, thus avoiding the walk of shame. However, If you are mid-poo when someone enters, you are required to make a critical choice: a) pause your poo and wait until the urinator has departed, creating the possible question ‘what’s going on in there?’, or b) continue panic pooing, suffering the humiliation of having your poo sounds heard by the urinator, who is less than 2 metres away. The pooer suffers the added ignominy of knowing that the only thing separating he from the urinator is a flimsy cut of timber, the length of which is barely sufficient for even the most minimal expectation of privacy.

Post-poo, the pooer is forced to wash hands and escape immediately, so as to avoid allocation of blame for any undesirable results of the poo. This creates a knock-on effect of blame. An innocent urinator may unfairly be assigned blame for the lingering smell of a previous pooers work, if they should happen to be washing their hands as a colleague enters. This is known as the ‘Lottery of Blame’ theory.

Faced with this grim scenario, your correspondent chose to hold it in. If you attempt to conduct a hold-in, you are advised to limit coffee intake, and avoid cereal for breakfast.

The lavatory of this otherwise savvy agency is to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Referral to the regulatory body is recommended.

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