When you think employers can’t possibly get any more out of touch with their workforce, WIRED has reported companies are now installing the fix for long bathroom breaks. An uncomfortable toilet to curb excessive toilet use. How idiotic.
If they would take a step back and ask why employees are taking breaks in the first place, they would identify their own leadership deficiencies. But it seems they’d rather buy an uncomfortable toilet than check their ego.
An Uncomfortable Toilet?
On the podcast this week, I discussed a UK-based StandToilet has designed a new uncomfortable toilet that sits at an uncomfortable 13-degree decline. Because people are taking upwards of 28-minute potty breaks reading social media and news, this design is supposed to simulate a wall sit, wearing out your legs.
Obviously, it’s a difficult message to simply tell employees you don’t trust them, so StandardToilet has you covered. They believe this is a healthier toilet.
“The purpose of the WC is to reduce the amount of time an individual spends on the toilet as it is not healthy.” explained a StandardToilet spokesperson to me. “Medical studies have suggested that using the traditional WC can contribute to swollen hemorrhoids and weakening of pelvic muscles/reduction in risk of musculoskeletal disorder.” The company claims there is worldwide demand for their product.
No matter how companies pitch this to their employees we’ve seen time and time again, this employee adversarial solution will fix nothing.
This isn’t the first time employers have sought to curb wasted time and control their employees. Previous examples include a Chicago-based water valve company timing and capping bathroom breaks, and a tech executive that claims he spies on his employees via their own webcams.
Instead of communicating with employees and understanding why employees take smoke breaks, extended lunches, extra trips to the water cooler, coffee breaks, or excessive social wandering, however, they choose to quash the symptoms, not the disease. While it could be possible that the rise in bathroom time corresponds with the popularization of open offices, forcing people to find refuge, I think it’s much more simple. Employees are bored.
Bored Employees Waste Time
If time-wasting activities are the symptom, what’s the disease? Bad leadership communication. After I listened to an employer complain about his clinic staff using their cell phones at work a few years back, I asked a simple question he couldn’t answer. “What should they be doing?” He had no idea—and that’s the problem.
Leaders that don’t know what to do inspire workers that don’t know what to do. Those bored or unengaged employees will find a way to engage and stimulate their minds if you can’t. Bosses seek to control behavior by blocking websites or making sure they clock in from 9-5p, and while their body may be clocked in, their mind isn’t.
How To Engage Workers
Leaders must focus and clearly communicate deliverables and goals, working with their teams to achieve them. Specificity matters and so do real deadlines—by focusing on specific deliverables, and specific deadlines there isn’t idle time to spend in the bathroom or browse Facebook.
To inspire even more engagement, it’s a great idea to sit with your team members and have them help you determine company goals. (Here’s my easy guide on how to get teams to accomplish goals.) In this way, leaders can hold their teams accountable to the goals they set on themselves which are often more ambitious than you would determine on your own.
You don’t need an uncomfortable toilet, you need an engaged workforce. What does it matter if they conduct business as they’re doing their business anyway?