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Comfort zone

The state of the washroom not only affects staff wellbeing, it influences perceptions of the organisation. Suzanne Halley explains the importance of maintaining a pleasant and hygienic washroom environment

Ask employees to name their biggest bugbears about workplace washrooms and you’ll hear about empty soap dispensers, loo paper strewn across the floor, or half-full, smelly urinals. Some might suggest there are more important things to worry about in the workplace, but the fact is washroom hygiene is no trivial matter. There really is an onus on bosses to establish a workplace washroom that is at least on a par with the facilities they enjoy at home. After all, if the boss doesn’t care about the calibre of the washrooms, what else are they turning a blind eye to?

It’s also a fact that poor bathroom hygiene impacts on staff productivity and attendance. Most of the working population spend a large amount of their time at work, so creating a comfortable and convenient environment for them should be a priority. Properly equipped and functional washrooms have a role in preventing sickness and reducing the spread of infections.

A study of office workers by Cogent Research in 2013 found that 78 per cent of respondents associated germs with the workplace toilets, while 69 per cent suspected toilet door handles. Further research published in Medical Construction and Design in 2013 suggests that 73 per cent of the business community believe that a bad toilet environment indicates poor overall management.

The Elevated Washroom Online Survey of 1,000 office workers, carried out by Global Marketing in 2014, revealed that 71 per cent thought an office washroom reflects on the facilities manager. Around 80 per cent of FMs appreciated that their office restrooms influence tenants’ satisfaction.

BACK TO BASICS
The facilities manager plays a vital role in ensuring a decent washroom experience for staff. There’s no need for flashy designer basins or state-of-the-art music systems. It’s about getting the basics right and ensuring the office washroom is clean, inviting, and fresh-smelling. This is all the more pertinent given that RICS research has found that facilities managers spend over half their time on operational issues, such as dealing with customer complaints.

So how do you maintain the highest possible standards while continuously striving to improve the bathroom experience?

According to the research in Medical Construction and Design, the leading washroom complaints are: bad smells (82 per cent), clogged or not-flushed toilets (79 per cent) and a dirty, unkempt overall appearance (73 per cent). The best way to reduce such complaints is to prevent them from arising. That means providing high-quality washroom consumables and tackling maintenance issues promptly.

The typical office worker visits the washroom three to four times a day. Within an average-sized facility, that equals more than 1.1 million annual satisfaction or complaint opportunities. For FMs, this represents an opportunity to significantly improve client satisfaction with the premises.

ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
We recommend taking a three-stage approach to discover, compare and improve washroom standards. The first question FMs should ask themselves is: how do we measure up? Compare washrooms with best practice benchmarks, focusing on the five areas where most issues arise: cleanliness, hygiene, efficiency, sustainability and satisfaction.

Start by collecting and analysing data on current washroom standards. This will provide the information enabling a comparison to be made between your washroom and industry benchmark standards, and highlight areas of improvement. Tools that can assist with the process include devices such as door counters to measure traffic, producing information that can maximise the effectiveness of your cleaning rotas. ‘Happy or not’ terminals and employee surveys are good ways to gather data on user satisfaction and suggestions for improvement.

Find ways of engaging with washroom users by, for example, installing a whiteboard for messages or a sign with the FM’s contact details. This will not only help highlight problems and gather ideas, it will help people to feel valued.

Suzanne Halley is FM segment marketing manager, Kimberly-Clark Professional, UK & Ireland.

SOMETHING IN THE AIR
Dave Carson of P-Wave explains how products that tackle bad smells can also reduce the need for maintenance.

Even when washrooms are equipped to the highest specification and cleaned regularly, one problem may be left unresolved – an unpleasant odour that can put people off using the facilities, or give the impression they aren’t as clean as they should be. This is particularly true of men’s washrooms. A bad smell can also discourage people from hanging around long enough to wash their hands properly.

One solution is to use air fresheners with strong, pleasant fragrances that mask bad odours effectively. Users feel welcomed by the scent rather than repelled by an unpleasant stench.

A prime cause of bad smells is urine, from bacteria in drains or splashback on the floor. It’s not enough to drop a scented blue block into urinals and hope for the best. By including the right enzymes in products, odour-controlling ‘good’ bacteria can eliminate malodorous ‘bad’ bacteria which feeds on urine. This removes the smell at source and is far more effective and environmentally friendly than urinal blocks or harsh chemicals.

SCREENING FOR PROBLEMS
It’s also important to reduce splashback so that urine doesn’t end up on the floor. With the best new urinal and trough screens, 95 per cent of splashback can be stopped. Innovative protrusions catch everything that heads their way, including bits of tissue, chewing gum or any other debris that might otherwise block pipes. This has the added benefit of reducing the need for maintenance, and avoiding the cost and hassle of clearing blocked drains.

Screens are available that provide a one-stop solution, combining enzymes with protrusions and pleasant, long-lasting aromas. They can last up to a month and include a clock system to signal when they need replacing. Such screens can be 100 per cent recyclable and low in toxins, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

FLUSHED WITH SUCCESS

Andy Burton, marketing manager at Thomas Dudley, looks at innovations in sanitaryware which save water and promote good hygiene

Water savings and improved hygiene are not only desirable goals for the facilities manager, they are key targets for technological innovation. In terms of toilet design, for example, sanitaryware manufacturers are continually developing WC pan designs that can operate with lower volumes.

Cisterns and cistern components are also subject to new developments for more efficient use of water. One recent development is the use of delay-fill inlet valves. Previously, float valves began refilling a cistern while it was still flushing. Use of a valve with delay-fill options mean that water is only allowed to refill the cistern once flushing has finished.

The trend towards ‘touch-free’ washrooms offers clear hygiene benefits. Infrared WC sensors are now commonplace in high-traffic applications such as motorway services. The latest generation of products can interact with users, with LED displays indicating when full or reduced flushes have been delivered and when the cistern is refilling.

Electronic taps and soap dispensers also encourage water saving and improved cleanliness. Taps can be configured to deliver one litre of water or less per use, and cannot be left running. With the electronic function, no touching is required, reducing bacteria and the risk of cross-contamination.

About Sarah OBeirne

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