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Can A Better Toilet Improve Your Company’s Productivity?

By December 19, 2019No Comments

(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Most business owners I know admit that when it comes to the holidays, productivity usually goes down the toilet. But a UK startup says it can solve that problem year round…by fixing your company’s toilets.

The solution? A slanted toilet, of course!

“Current toilet seats provide a horizontal seating surface,” reads a recent press release from the company that makes the StandardToilet. “This enables a user to sit relatively comfortably on the toilet. As a result, a user may spend longer than necessary sitting on the toilet without short-term discomfort. Sitting on a toilet for longer than is necessary is generally undesirable.”

So to improve productivity, all you need to do is install slanted toilets in your office. The StandardToilet, for example, is angled at a 13-degree slope, which results in users having to slightly exert more effort to, well, hang on to their position. It’s not a super-comfortable experience, which is exactly what the makers intended.

It’s “not enough to cause health issues,” Mahabir Gill, creator of the product told Wired. “Anything higher than that would cause wider problems. Thirteen degrees is not too inconvenient, but you’d soon want to get off the seat quite quickly.”

Gill has spent the last 40 years of his life as an engineer that specializes in advising companies on lavatory design and I’m hoping you’ll allow me to slip in just one toilet joke here by noting that his work sure must be crappy at times.  Thank you.

The results – like my joke – aren’t a laughing matter. The company says that its toilets will result in less time in the bathroom (checking ESPN and of course and more time doing actual work. Its toilets are also being considered not only as a corporate productivity tool but also as a way to reduce the time people spend in public toilets such as stadiums or restaurants because yeah, we all want to spend more time in those places.

Of course, not everyone is thrilled with the technology.  “In an office, the one space you have where you can find privacy is often the toilet,” Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler, assistant professor of design history at Purdue University in Indiana told Wired. “So, god forbid that we want to make the one place where workers should have at least some autonomy – the toilet – another place where people impose the very capitalist idea that people should always be working.”

The StandardToilet also faces challenges among workplace experts who are concerned for workers that may have health problems, need more time in the bathroom or simply just want respite from a depressing cubicle. “Viewing time spent in the toilet as a threat is the wrong way of looking at the issue entirely,” said Charlotte Jones, the co-author of a study of what makes a safe and accessible toilet,  particularly for disabled and trans people. “I think the importance of the toilet as a refuge during the workday says more about inadequate workspaces, heavy workloads and unsupportive management, than it does about the workers themselves.”

Of course, the makers of the StandardToilet have a different viewpoint. “It is estimated that in the United Kingdom alone, extended employee breaks costs industry and commerce an estimated £4 billion ($5.24 billion) per annum,” they say. “It is easy to see why our StandardToilet can be an asset to a business.”

My take? I’m all about getting more work out of people, but I’m pretty sure there are other, better ways to improve productivity than causing my employees to slip off their toilet seats. There’s nothing like a bad movement, right?

Then again, it could be a thing. It’s certainly not that expensive. According to the Wired report the StandardToilet has been officially blessed by the British Toilet Association (yes, there is actually a British Toilet Association) and sells for between £150 ($200) and £500 ($650).

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