For Ashley, an accountant from Louisville, Kentucky, a good workplace restroom is a place she can have a moment of peace before setting out to tackle a challenging day. Instead, her firm’s restroom is hardly an oasis of tranquility. In fact, after the building's owner renovated the bathroom, its dim lighting, “ugly orangey color,” overwhelming odor and poor amenities—especially the absence of a full-length mirror—sent her and her female colleagues a clear message: the women’s bathroom is a low priority.
“People spend a lot of time in there and remark on how poorly the renovation was thought out,” says Ashley, who asked to have her last name withheld to protect her privacy.
Some of her colleagues suspected that their company didn’t want them congregating in the women’s bathroom, an idea Ashley considers counterproductive since talking with colleagues is a crucial part of her workday.
“We’re not working in a sweatshop, but to deliberately make the bathroom uncomfortable so people don’t spend time in there, that’s a sweatshop mentality,” Ashley says.
For many female professionals like Ashley, the office restroom is an important part of their day-to-day work life. On average, employees make three to four visits to the bathroom every day, according to Kimberly-Clark Professional* research.
The restroom isn’t just a place to do one’s business; it also presents an opportunity for smart business leaders to proactively improve their workplace. By thoughtfully designing the washroom, they can make it a peaceful place to refresh and recharge throughout the day.
“The washroom is a sanctuary that offers a privacy that doesn’t necessarily exist anywhere else in the office building,” says Stephanie Magnan, strategic program marketer, Global Marketing & Innovation, Kimberly-Clark Professional*.
Reframing the Washroom
To further understand the integral role the restroom plays in an office worker’s daily experience, Kimberly-Clark Professional* researchers conducted a study to gauge the impact of added washroom amenities on both the male and female workforce.
Amenities tested include Cottonelle® Brand moist wipes, Scott® Brand toilet seat covers and Kimberly-Clark Professional* air freshener dispensers. Study participants, particularly women, reported a significant increase in their satisfaction with the restroom with the additional amenities.
“We discovered that the better the restroom, the more likely employees—especially women—see it as a reflection of how much their company cares about them as individuals, ultimately impacting employee satisfaction,” Magnan says.
Kimberly-Clark Professional* research revealed that the women’s restroom is a space that provides privacy, fosters connection and allows for preparation for the next important work task at hand.
“An improved experience can play a critical but often overlooked role in strengthening workplace culture and influencing employee well-being, especially among women,” Magnan says.
The Prioritized Amenities
For workplace leaders interested in driving improvements, the study identified the extra amenities women value the most. Here are the top six amenities, in rank order, that U.S. women wanted to see provided in the restroom:
- Hand sanitizers
- Air fresheners
- Facial tissue
- Toilet seat covers
- Face and hand wipes
- Feminine care products (like tampons and pads)
The last item might be the most important for today’s workplace culture.
Advocates like Free the Tampons Foundation and New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland argue that business owners and public facilities should make such products readily available in schools, commercial properties and public facilities.
“When the unexpected happens, and you don’t have access to tampons and pads, the consequences are absolutely and positively humiliating,” says Nancy Kramer, founder of Free the Tampons Foundation, a national campaign to make feminine products freely accessible in restrooms.
“Workplaces that do provide feminine care products will make women feel taken care of and secure, and women will have what they need without having to leave the office to buy these supplies themselves,” Kramer adds.
Kimberly-Clark Professional* research showed that nearly 60 percent of U.S. female office employees strongly agreed that offering feminine care products in the office restroom conveyed to them that their employers “understood their needs as a woman,” Magnan says.
The ‘Halo’ Effect
Ultimately, as a business and workplace leader, every step companies take to create more personalized and intimate experiences matters. Kimberly-Clark Professional* research revealed that a carefully thought-out restroom can have a so-caled “halo” effect, reflecting positively on employers, facilities managers and even the office building itself.
For instance, adding air deodorizers made users feel less anxiety and stress while in the restroom. Similarly, providing a full-length mirror in the women’s bathroom gave employees an opportunity to see themselves in full throughout the day as they prepared for big meetings or periodically checked on their appearance. Offering Kleenex® Brand Facial Tissue in strategic locations, such as by sinks, can help when unexpected moments strike and paper towels are not adequate for sensitive areas like one’s face.
Ultimately, the restroom is a reflection of the building manager, employers and building owners. An elevated experience, especially for female employees, sends a positive message, creating a safer, happier and healthier work environment.
Restrooms create a lasting impression. “Women always remember a great restroom experience,” Ashley says. “I know I do.”