The Business Bathroom
Office kitchen etiquette gets a lot of attention, rightly so. But what about office bathroom etiquette?
In some of my past jobs, my company has had its own bathroom. In these cases, most people behaved themselves—maybe sharing the bathroom with only their coworkers made them feel obliged to make a good impression. Unfortunately for my little four-person office at my current job, we share a bathroom with the other suites in our building. Let’s just say the bathroom environment is … well … different.
The thing about the office bathroom is that it’s a business bathroom. It’s not your home bathroom—or even just any public bathroom. It’s a bathroom in a professional environment, shared with people you’ll presumably run into here and there. You should conduct yourself in a professional manner. What follows are some suggestions for office bathroom etiquette in response to less-than-exemplary bathroom behaviors my coworkers and I have been enduring lately. (Those of you with delicate sensibilities: be warned.)
- – Please wear shoes to the bathroom. No one wants to see your bare feet in the next stall. Plus, it’s just plain unsanitary.
- – Don’t talk on your phone in the bathroom—I can make an exception if you need to do this because there is no other private place in your building to talk (our current location has a perfectly fine lobby). If you must use your phone in the bathroom, don’t talk while sitting on the toilet. It’s very awkward for those of us in the next stall. And definitely don’t talk on speaker. It’s bad enough that the person you’re talking to is subjected to your bathroom sounds—don’t force them to hear me flushing the toilet, too. How well can you hear with flushing toilets and running sinks, anyway? Besides, sitting on a public toilet with your phone is just gross. So don’t sit there watching a YouTube video, either.
- – It’s only polite to smile or say “hi, how are you?” to people you encounter in the bathroom. But if you don’t know the person very well, keep the small talk small. I know I’m not very comfortable conversing with virtual strangers while I pee. And it’s the bathroom; most people don’t want to hang out in there.
- – On a related note, it’s perfectly acceptable to make eye contact with someone to acknowledge their presence and say hello. But … I can’t believe I have to say this … don’t stare! Recently I walked out of the stall to find someone standing right there staring at me as if she was trying to look into the depths of my soul. It was uncomfortable.
- – We all know the bathroom isn’t the most pleasant-smelling place. But don’t make things worse by spraying a bunch of perfume or air freshener. For one thing, some people are very sensitive to perfume. (It irritates my sinuses and even sometimes gives me a headache.) And if you’re doing it to cover up bad smells … it doesn’t work. It just combines with bodily smells to create a mutant funk.
- – Along the lines of spraying perfume, it’s OK to go into the bathroom to freshen up or touch up your makeup—we all do it. But be cognizant of others when grooming yourself. Don’t leave a layer of facial powder on the counter. And please be mindful when brushing your hair. Masses of disembodied hair strands are creepy. Sometimes when I go to wash my hands I feel like I’m in the middle of an IT-type scene where the hair in the sink is going to leap up and wrap itself around my wrists to pull me into the drain.
- – Please allow me to throw in an environmental plea: Don’t overuse paper products. You don’t need 10 toilet seat covers or 15 paper towels. (Seriously, I’ve seen people do this.) More important from an etiquette standpoint, properly throw these things away. If your aim’s a little off when you go to toss them in the trashcan, pick them up! And please don’t leave your toilet seat cover on the toilet. Maybe using it made you feel good about your personal hygiene, but it doesn’t make me feel very clean when I come upon it.
- – Finally, flush the toilet. Yes, sometimes handles are sensitive and you might need to hold them down or even flush twice … but take the extra effort and do it for the sake of those coming in after you.
These are just some examples—and only from the ladies’ room! I’m sure the men’s room opens up a whole new world of problems. Just remember: What you do in the comfort of your own home is your business. But when you do your business in the business bathroom, keep it classy.