Toilet habits are probably one of the greatest taboo subjects, talked about in hushed tones, one-to-one or in small groups.
At Initial Hygiene, we’re fairly vocal about washrooms, but for many people it’s something that they are incredibly embarrassed by. In fact, our recent research has found that there are certain things that are so embarrassing, that they’ll go to great lengths to cover up!
A massive 46% of office workers we asked said that they have tried to disguise the noises they made in the office washroom. It seems that the most preferred form of disguise at 52% is flushing the toilet, but other popular methods include coughing (35%) and humming (6%).
Embarrassed by ourselves, disgusted by others
It’s not just our own habit’s we’re ashamed of, but the way other people treat washrooms. We’ve probably all walked into a toilet cubicle, pulled a face (most likely accompanied by an expression of repulsion) and turned on our heels in search of a cleaner alternative.
From our research, it seems that this is something that happens far too often, to such a degree that half of the office workers we surveyed actually worry about going to the washroom at work and 54% will even avoid or try and avoid using the office loo for a poo! A quarter of the people that we asked said that have been so shocked by the state of their office washroom that they have left without using the facilities.
Dirty toilet? It wasn’t me…
So if so many people feel this way, who is leaving them in such an unacceptable state? If 92% of people claim to always leave the office washroom in a state they would like to find it, does that mean that the remaining 8% are causing all of the unhygienic problems?
Everyone has an office or public washroom story to tell. I myself can remember one day walking into a toilet cubicle at a previous workplace to find a sanitary pad stuck to the wall and thinking ‘that’s not something you could do by accident’.
Our findings revealed that:
- 43% of office workers have found urine outside of the toilet bowl
- 20% have found faeces
- 12% have found blood
- And half of female office workers (48%) have encountered an overflowing sanitary bin
At this point, I would imagine your facial expressions are hovering somewhere between shock and repugnance. If you’re at work, you may even be looking around you to see if you can identify the culprit.
A message to those with less than perfect toilet training
Of course, it’s entirely possible that you may be aggravating peoples’ pet-peeves without knowing it. Being ever hygiene conscious, Initial Hygiene has compiled a list of the top 5 most disliked toilet habits of others for you to check your behaviour against:
- Failing to flush (72%) – Remind yourself that one gram of human faeces may contain 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs1, so you may want to get rid of it fast!
- Leaving toilet in messy state (54%) – WC’s are already a reservoir of bacteria as they are frequently replenished with millions of bacteria which can survive for many weeks on the bowl surface2. Do you really want to be the person who adds to that?
- Making a terrible smell (33%) – This obviously can’t always be helped, but you may have tried a few options such as flushing fast or spraying perfume but it might be wise to pre-empt the problem by getting your company to invest in air fresheners in the vicinity of the cubicle.
- Making a terrible sound (15%) – You’ll already have seen some peoples’ ways of disguising sounds earlier in this blog, but our research did come up with some interesting results, such toilet flushing sound machines from Japan and healthy diet advice, but how about we just break the taboo instead? After all, some things just can’t be helped!
- Leaving toilet seat up (14%) – Microbes inside the bowl can splash as far as 20 feet onto you, surfaces and anything on them. This is the ‘sneeze effect’. It is what happens when a flushed toilet gives rise to a cloud of tiny water droplets, which can contain micro-organisms that are associated with urine and faecal matter – so remember to always close the lid before flushing!
If you’ve said yes to one or more of these, this is your opportunity to think about amending your ways!
How can toilets and toilet habits improve if nobody wants to talk about it?
So let’s ask the question – If we don’t talk about toilets, how will those people who are responsible for maintaining them know they need to improve? The demand is certainly there, with 61% of office workers expressing a need for cleaner facilities at their place of business.
Businesses need to understand the consequences of poor washroom facilities. Global estimates put the cost of lost productivity due to illnesses caused by lack of sanitation and poor hygiene at up to 5% of GDP. But to affect your day-to-day life, we need to consider this at a narrower level, namely the obvious effect on employees.
Previous research by Initial in conjunction with Cebr, found that 39% of office workers in the UK believe improving office hygiene would increase their level of job satisfaction, resulting in higher productivity and reduced sick time. They even went as far as to say that they would be willing to sacrifice £130 per annum to ensure their offices are maintained to a higher hygiene standard. The results in other countries around the world were comparable.
It seems like a win-win solution. Better washrooms > happier workforce > higher rewards!
Break the taboo and demand better! Find out more about ‘Habits of Hygiene’ by downloading Initial’s report on ‘Washroom behaviours: Understanding the state of office washrooms and the habits of users‘.
- Barker J., Bloomfield S. Journal of Applied Microbiology