Friday, March 4, 2016

Bathroom bull can be a bear

Many people, if not most, have experienced having their trips to the restroom monitored in at least one workplace.  From a mild, "Again?" to more intrusive questions--"Why do you have to go so often?  Why did it take you so long?"--to the extremes of timing and logging and even attempting to schedule bathroom use, some employers and managers behave in ways that at times border on harassment.

In some cases, it is unquestionably harassment.  A well publicized and widely criticized story in 2014 reported a workplace that had installed an electronic monitoring system, requiring card key access into the restroom.  The new policy penalized employees who used the bathroom "too much" and offered incentives to "reward" employees who kept bathroom use to a minimum.

This compulsion to monitor how often and how long people go to the bathroom seems to be rooted in a fear that people are just looking for an excuse to avoid doing their work, or a way to goof around online, or a chance to play games on their phones, away from Management Eyes.

Maybe, just maybe, people make all of those trips to the restroom because THEY HAVE BODILY FUNCTIONS.

What a radical suggestion.

Let me ask you this: Do you think the upper management has to account for their every trip to the restroom? Do you think anyone is asking the CEO, or any other executive, why they were in the restroom for so long? Do you think reporting the details of their bodily functions is listed among their duties?

If they don't have to do it, why does anyone else have to do it?

And if your answer is that they hold a higher rank in the company, they've earned the privilege of freedom, congratulations: You are part of the problem.

THE FREEDOM TO USE THE BATHROOM AT WILL IS NOT A "PRIVILEGE," TO BE DISPENSED AT THE DISCRETION OF MANAGEMENT: IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT.

Ultimately, corporate bathroom b.s. is but a symptom of the larger problem, viewing some people as "below" other people, rather than viewing everyone as capable self-directed adults who can be trusted to use their own judgment and should be treated with basic human dignity and respect.

If people really do hate their jobs that much that they would rather hide on the toilet than do their work, perhaps it's time to ask what kind of work culture your company is fostering that such desperate escapism would be a widespread pattern. Most people normally don't think of a public restroom as an appealing place to hang out; they just want to do their business and move along.

To deny an employee's basic right to use the restroom at will is to treat them, not as fellow human beings, but as mere cogs in the machine in the service of ever-increasing "productivity." In the modern corporate world, productivity has become an all-consuming idol, trying to always extract more work from fewer people in smaller amounts of time, squeezing every last drop of potential profits from every possible minute of the day.

Sustainability is a much healthier vision for creating a business that is truly functional and beneficial for all people concerned. When the goal is to be sustainable, rather than merely "productive" and "profitable," a business seeks balance: finding ways to do the work that needs to be done that will create a healthy income with everyone working at a reasonable, healthy pace, leaving breathing room for things like relieving oneself or taking care of one's period without being subjected to an inquisition.

Remember that a business is there to serve the employees every bit as much as the employees are there to serve the business. It's a collaborative, cooperative relationship: Human beings working together to meet one another's needs. Every employee, at every level of the company, is contributing to producing the goods and services that meet the needs of the people who buy those goods and services, and every employee deserves to be respected in meeting their own needs during the course of the work day.