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Cleaning up in the washroom

Washrooms are an essential but too often overlooked part of a workplace. In this article FMJ looks at how to design your washrooms in order to keep your workforce happy whilst remaining environmentally friendly, cost effective and hygienic

Few things can have a worse impact on staff moral than dirty and badly maintained washrooms. Apart from being a potential health hazard the condition of the washroom indicates to employees just how much or little their company values them.

And the quality of the washroom also reflects on the business as a whole. Research suggests that some 73 per cent of the business community believes that a bad toilet environment indicates poor overall management. Research among office workers reveals that 71 per cent think an office washroom reflects on the FM.

The FM is the lynchpin in delivering a satisfactory washroom experience to staff. We’re not talking here about installing designer sinks or built-in music systems. It’s the simple things which matter, it’s all about making sure that the office washroom is clean, looks inviting, and smells fresh – thus improving the customer experience and reducing complaints. But how can you do that? What methods are there to continuously improve the bathroom?

Ed Borrini, target market leader for Office Buildings at Kimberly-Clark Professional says that you have to start by getting the basics right.

“Cleanliness and hygiene are the two fundamentals of excellent washroom standards. Simple steps such as making sure that there is enough toilet paper available in the toilets are the key to running a successful washroom.

The relevant products including towels, soap and toilet roll must be available and equipment must be in good working order. The toilets need to flush and the sinks need to drain.

“Smells and stains need to be eliminated, wet floors need to be dried and bins need to be emptied. Focus on odours – think about the ‘inhale moment’. If it doesn’t smell clean, then the brain thinks it isn’t clean. You can have all the marble tiles you like in a washroom, if it’s not clean and smells bad then no-one is going to be impressed.”

Other research suggests that facilities managers spend over 50 per cent of any given working day on operational issues, such as dealing with customer complaints and less than one day a week is devoted to strategy and planning.

The top washroom complaints are a bad smell (82 per cent), clogged toilets or not flushed (79 per cent) and a dirty, unkempt overall appearance (73 per cent).

The best way to deal with complaints is to stop them being made in the first place. Make sure that the quality of your washroom consumables is satisfactory, that any maintenance issues are tackled before they even become an irritation.

The typical office worker visits the washroom three to four times a day, within an averaged sized facility that equals millions of times a year that staff will use the washrooms. That’s a lot of chances for things to go wrong. Eighty per cent of global FMs know that their office restrooms influences tenant satisfaction, but they are under constant pressure of budgets and time.

This is where technology can help. Technology has an impact on every area of our lives today – and that includes the washrooms. “Going to the toilet is one of the most basic human functions there is. But like many other aspects of our lives, the humble visit to the loo is becoming increasingly influenced by technology,” says Jamie Wright from Tork manufacturers SCA.

“We readily accept the impact that technology has on other everyday functions these days. There are any number of calorie-counting and healthy eating apps that help us to improve our diet and nutrition via our smartphone, for example. There are also fitness products that track our sleep – and even apps that monitor our heart rate and help us regulate our breathing.

“So it is no surprise to discover that the app culture is quietly taking over in the toilet, too. It seems that anyone with a secret toilet worry can now download an app to help them deal with it.

“Applications allow washroom visitors to monitor their bowel movements so that they can be aware of any potential health issue. Not only do these apps help the user to record times and dates and take photos of their movements, they also encourage them to upload images on to social media.”

According to a study carried out by Sony and O2 at least 75 per cent of people in the UK take their phones into the toilet with them. Since this research was carried out in 2013 the number of UK smartphone users has increased by more than 14 per cent, so this figure is now likely to be considerably higher.

A second survey carried out the same year revealed that under-30s were spending an average of one minute and 39 seconds longer in the loo than the over-55s. Using depth sensors and motion-mapping technology, the Ideal Standard bathroom manufacturing company behind the study concluded that younger people were spending this extra toilet time on social media websites.

While many are no doubt chatting to friends, others are uploading images –and not necessarily of the contents of the toilet, either. It has become an increasing trend for people to post pictures of away-from-home washrooms on to websites that highlight the good and the bad as well as the plain unhygienic.

Instagram is crammed with images of toilets that have been uploaded by people who are keen to share their every experience. One user calling themselves “Trap Adviser” has attracted more than 700 followers by posting images of noteworthy washrooms in London restaurants.

Meanwhile, the internet is awash with blogs about washrooms around the world – particularly the weirder and more wonderful ones. Images of urinals in the shape of mouths, tubas and even coffins can be seen all over the net. While some of these blogs are likely to have limited audiences, others – such as the Bookatable Top 10 Best Restaurant Toilets in London blog, for example – potentially have considerable influence and may help venues to attract new custom.

About Sarah OBeirne


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