The unbearable lightness of peeing.

cell-phone-toilet-nasty

3 reasons to block wi-fi and phone signals to workplace bathrooms.

Many workplaces recognize the drag on work time if staff are checking in on their mobile phone to catch up on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, What’s App etc.  HR departments have introduced guidelines on use of mobile phones.  Many have restricted access to wi-fi networks to business approved usage only.  But with cheap data usage plans plenty of staff are still “always on” as long as they have a phone signal.  Maybe it is time to monitor bathroom behavior in your business.

Productivity

It is a no-brainer that staff members who are accessing their social media feeds are taking time away from their work.  In certain types of business this impact can be significant.  For people working on complex data tasks an interruption to analysis can result in a 20 minute “recalibration” penalty as the staff member picks up from where they previously left off.

If you are engaged in a complex task, or something that needs a lot of concentration (think about sitting exams) a bathroom break can be a moment when you order your thoughts on how to approach the task at hand.  How often have you worked out the solution to a problem by going for a walk, or eating lunch, while mulling over the problem?  But if that time is spent checking social media feed the brain is distracted.  Instead of working out the problem at hand the brain is leaping from photos of friends lunches to the latest on Royal Weddings.

By making the bathroom in the office a data black hole you help staff members to avoid the lure of the device in their pocket.

Health

If people are in the habit of checking their phone in the bathroom there will be implications for the spread of germs.  This is not rocket science.  When have you last seen someone wash their iPhone in the sink?

Think about that next time you borrow someones phone!  Yuck.

Congestion

The hidden cost of phone usage in bathrooms is congestion.  Staff members are taking longer to use the bathroom because they are checking the phone.  Male staff members are more likely to use a stall instead of a urinal because they can scan their feed.  This causes lost time, but hides a more insidious issue.

Buildings are designed around the flow of people.  A building is designed with an optimal number of bathrooms for staff, based on research into usage parameters.  There have to be enough toilets to handle the maximum demand periods.  If each staff member is spending just a few extra seconds using the bathroom, checking their phone, this has knock on consequences for office design and consequently the cost of office space.

Summary

Bathrooms are designed for going to the lavatory.  If they are designed to block phone and wi-fi signals they will operate more effectively for their intended purpose.

Digital Etiquette

WiFi manners

A very valid question is posed above.  When it comes to insights I often default to this one:  “When you go home to your mothers house, do you ever walk into the kitchen, open the fridge and have a good look at what is in there?”

It is amazing how this simple insight makes people smile, most recognise the behaviour as something they do.  It would be an incredibly rude thing to do with a friend or colleage, but we all do it when we go home to visit Mom, or as we Dubliners call her “de Ma”.  The fridge is a symbol for a whole raft of emotions around security, contentment, care and love.  A packed fridge is a welcome home, mothers bounty, always there in case of need.  It is a visual symbol of a mothers love for her children.

My own mother is old and putting it kindly one might say she is a little forgetful these days.  Now when I open the fridge it is to ensure that she is being cared for.  That is sad.  It makes the house a cold and clinical place to know we can’t just turn up and root out a lunch from the contents.

Food etiquette is central to how we interact with others.  Toilet etiquette is not far behind.  You don’t arrive into a persons house and just march straight to the bathroom, unless you are in a very bad state.  Excusing yourself to the bathroom entails a complex code of doubletalk, innuendo and social manners.

Sasha Baron Cohen, in the character of Borat, uses our ‘delicacy’ around bathroom issues as a source of comedy, as in this video, about 3.30 in:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PebL4qCGK1w

Bathroom etiquette requires that we mask our purpose,  We talk of bathrooms and toilets, which were originally places for washing.  We should be asking for the W.C. and indeed this is considered to be polite in upper class English circles. The Queen uses a WC. Other, lesser people, refer to the Loo, the Ladies, the Gents, the little girls/boys room, the Facilities, the Washroom, John, Khazi, Dunny and so on.

Now we have the thorny issue of WiFi to worry about.   As a good host are you expected to give up your access code?  As a guest is it polite to ask for it?  Are you going to spend the dinner party gazing into your smart phone?  When is it proper for a host to ask you to leave the phone in a box for the evening?  If your host asks you to put your phone away should you be mortified and apologetic, or is it OK to tell them to go to hell because they are just Luddites?

Table manners for food and toilets are established and are a still a social minefield.  Phone and WiFi manners are still in flux and are constantly evolving.  One thing is very sure, lots of people are using their time in the bathroom to check up on their live feed!  I just hope they wash their hands first.