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More office workers forced to use the loo as a breakroom

03 September 2018

Research from Initial Washroom Hygiene has found that British office workers are increasingly using the washroom as a break out space, creating a potential hygiene risk.

Office space is at a premium in the UK, which is underlined in the capital where central London office space under offer reached an 18-year high last month. Workers across the UK are also noticing a squeeze; with more than two in five office workers (43%) saying the total number of staff in their office has increased and respondents reported that this is manifesting in a shortage of workspace (60%), fewer available car parking spaces (52%), and busier washroom facilities (34%).

The study of more than 2,000 UK office workers found that a third (33%) say they use their office washroom as a place to escape work because they don’t have enough break out space elsewhere within the office environment. Another third said they sometimes visit the washroom to get away from their desk but didn’t actually use the toilet while they were there, and almost two in five (39%) said the office washroom is a good place to seek peace and quiet.

The average time a British office worker spends in the washroom each day is 13 mins and 31 secs, which when multiplied over the course of the year exceeds 1.3 working weeks (53 hours). 

Dr Colm More, area technical manager for Initial Washroom Hygiene, said: “The trend for office workers to use the washroom as a break out space poses a potential hygiene risk for employers. Washrooms are designed for a specific purpose and require regular cleaning to ensure they remain safe and hygienic. If more people are using washrooms and staying in them for longer periods, employers and facilities managers need to ensure their cleaning regime is increased appropriately to reflect this.

“As offices become more densely populated, the potential risk of cross contamination is increased, as the reduced space makes the transfer of germs more likely. Hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to mitigate the risk of spreading of germs within an office environment. It is therefore vital for employers to ensure they have the right facilities in place to promote good hand hygiene across the company.” 

The research also found that employers need to lift their washroom hygiene standards. More than two in five (41%) of those surveyed said they felt the hygiene standards of their office washroom need to improve. A third (33%) said their office washroom requires more frequent cleaning, and an additional third said they wish their employers would put more effort and resources towards improving the state of their washroom.

The state of office washrooms could also be impacting workplace morale, productivity and bottom line. A third of the office workers questioned (33%) said their washroom creates a bad impression for clients and staff, one in five (21%) said they have negative feelings towards their employer because of the state of the office washroom, and worryingly 19% said they believe they have lost clients because they were put off by the state of the washroom in their office.