Most men and women in your organization are pretty much apples and oranges when it comes to employee restroom needs. A recent queue theory study from Ghent University in Belgium validated longstanding perceptions that females require more bathroom time. The differences may offer long-overdue opportunity for your organization to chip away at gender and human rights gaps.
The explanation, according to the study, is simple. In general, women deal with more clothing, open and close additional doors, have fewer options, and tend to tidy up the place more diligently. On the flip side, men typically walk up to a fixture, do the basics, then walk away.
Ghent's study showed bathroom time averaged about one minute for men and a minute-and-a-half for women. Makes sense, but does it perhaps create an unfair efficiency advantage?
Restroom inequity is most evident at large events, with classically separated multi-person Ladies and Gentlemen rooms. We've all seen the untenable queue crush between innings, intermission, and other high traffic times. Long lines, frustration, missed moments are more common for women. Meanwhile, those gender-neutral portable plastic individual restrooms at outdoor events seem to level things out a little.
So how does this sometimes-sensitive male/female topic apply to your business? Turns out, eliminating gender barriers can be a wonderful metaphor for teams, customers, internal and external PR relations, and other entrepreneurial behavior.
Here are four reasons why:
1. As a leader, you'll set a different tone being gender agnostic at work.
We live in a country consumed by scandalous gender inequity, most visibly associated with Hollywood stars and questionable politicians. In my company, Aimclear, we've always focused on human rights, including gender issues. Yet, our bathrooms didn't fully reflect our values.
As I've traveled for business and pleasure, I've observed how European businesses often set up bathrooms. My final inspiration for company bathroom change stemmed from being with a friend who pointed out an obvious lack of potty parity I had not yet noticed.
I was floored, did my research, gained leadership buy in and made a change. As entrepreneurs we ask teammates to learn from research and data, seek efficiencies, and pioneer. Certainly, it matters to exemplify these values in how we allocate space in our office for basic biologics.
Both floors of our Duluth, Minn., office have two single-person bathrooms--one for women, the other for men. This proved unfair at times, so we've switched to Euro-inspired water closets.
Males and females alike seem to appreciate the sensitivity and are onboard to make things equal. We've asked everyone (guys, in particular) to be more sensitive about bathroom cleanliness.
2. Avoiding perennial bathroom legislation debates is good business.
There's no position to stake out. There's nothing to prove to clients, visitors, and employees.
Having single-person, either-gender bathrooms eliminates the need to choose sides on which bathroom transgender or gender-neutral employees use. Regardless of your personal sociopolitical beliefs, no legislature will force change on your company. They'll be no uncomfortable policies to clarify.
Good. You don't need that debate at work.
3. Employees may respect you as an accommodating employer.
This helps in other alt-HR conversations. Often those most interested in human rights also desire other innovative practices to enhance work/life balance. These teammates may champion unlimited PTO, work-from-home options, longer-term new baby leave, sabbaticals, and other modern benefits.
Many companies aren't able to immediately go all the way in some of those areas. Bathroom equality is an easy win on the human rights front and may earn patience on the pathway to other changes.
4. It's great for PR, word of mouth, and social media.
Don't change your bathroom setup solely for attention. Do it for the right reasons--and if you can nab some internal and external props, great! Creating a true atmosphere of innovation and human rights is contagious.
Earn mutual respect by making changes, and good karma may follow. My company's social posts about changing our bathroom setup resonated among industry and personal friends. Industry peers ask me about it at conferences all over the world now. It's literally priceless.
A bill that would remove gender designations from all single-user bathrooms met no opposition in the Vermont Senate. Outdated standards can create an atmosphere in which old rules are re-examined and bent for a new, more open workplace.
Be the solution. Fixing the male-female bathroom differential can help your business physically and metaphorically alike.