From holding on near to the end of the day to avoid having to go for a number two at work to defying your office’s ‘no checking mobiles during work hours’ by feigning the need to use the toilet just to enjoy a quick catch up, here are the unspoken and unwritten rules of toilet etiquette you should be aware of (and observe) whilst at work.
- Potty Mouth: When is it permissible to speak to somebody through the toilet door?
In offices which feature cubicle style toilets, it is permissible (just about) to speak through the dividing wall if you have done the unthinkable and sat down to use the toilet ahead of checking there is any toilet roll.
That said, this is the only instance in which speaking through a cubicle dividing wall is ever ok. Shooting the breeze or striking casual conversation whilst using the toilet is wrong on every level. Hence, save the conversation for the sinks at least.
Of course, if the building is on fire or you have reason to believe the person in the cubicle beside yours is experiencing some kind of medical emergency, this changes things; it is then not only permissible but in fact only proper thing to then give a clear ‘warning knock’ upon and either alert the staff member that the building is burning down, or hazard to ask them if they are ok.
- Patience is a Virtue
Under no circumstance is it ever ok to knock, bang, shout or otherwise make your annoyance explicitly known if the person currently occupying the toilet has been in there for what you consider too long.
They might indeed be answering phone call rather than answering nature’s call, but even then, no it is not ok to hedge your bets or call them out. Rather, age old office toilet etiquette rules apply: you must stand silently and patiently with a blank expression, and wait.
Rushing somebody and / or unrestrained displays of emotion are not only displays of bad toilet etiquette; they are also just not British. Hence, don that stiff upper lip, and tap a foot if you must express your displeasure. And if the situation becomes urgent, a polite, fake cough can be voiced. But that is it.
- Replacing the Loo Roll: Get it Right
If the toilet roll runs out, replace it. It is that simple. There is no excuse for leaving an empty roll on the holder and walking away.
Secondly, and importantly, if you are going to replace the toilet roll, get it right; a roll should always be placed onto a horizontal holder so that the sheet you reach for is outward facing. The alternative option is backwards, in just about every way.
- Taking Calls Whilst in the Toilet
The only call it is reasonable to take whilst in the toilet are ones made by nature. If you have to resort to hiding in a bathroom, deceiving your co-workers and boss by saying, insinuating or otherwise pretending to have to fulfil bodily needs that you don’t have whilst others do the opposite to avoid the embarrassment of admitting they need to use the loo, that call is not urgent.
Worse yet, should you be that guy who takes it or makes it anyway, the likelihood is that you will only come to be loathed by your colleagues who are left queuing outside, having perhaps held on for potentially hours before admitting that they need to use the bathroom only to discover the door is locked. Nobody who is bursting for a wee (or worse) wants to listen to the muffled conversation of the person preventing them from relieving themselves or wait whilst you poke people via Facebook or tweet a review of your lunchtime sandwich.
- Don’t Be the ‘Creepy Urinal Guy’
Many modern offices do not have or feature rows of open urinals these days, but in those that do it is important to remember to observe the rules.
And the most important one is to always leave at least one urinal or the breadth of a person between you and anybody else already using the urinals. To do anything else is creepy even in a public restroom where it is unlikely you will ever meet your ‘victim’ again.
In a situation where your ‘victim’ is a colleague this is just unthinkable, especially in a British bathroom; after all, the colleague you sidle up beside is more than likely to say nothing, but spend the next week trying to decipher your bizarre behaviour without daring to speak about it to you or anyone else.
Further, whatever conclusion they come to, it is likely they will spend the rest of their career at that office, or yours, avoiding you like the plague. Worse yet, make a habit of failing to observe urinal spacing laws and you will become known as that ‘creepy urinal guy’.
- What to Do About the Office Moaning Myrtle
From time to time everybody stumbles upon a situation in which the toilet is occupied when they come to use it, but before leaving to try again in a few minutes or whilst waiting quietly for it to become free it becomes clear that the person inside is actually crying in there.
A tense and instantly awkward situation, the temptation is usually to sneak off and pretend not to have heard anything. Surprisingly perhaps, this is, as a rule of thumb, the best course of action – unless you know who is in there and are on sufficiently close terms and know better than the rules.
Otherwise, it is likely that the person in there went there and locked the door behind them because they do not want to be bothered, approached or otherwise put in the situation of having to either explain themselves or lie about what they are doing.
Then, it is best in this situation to quietly retreat, rather than wait and have them wondering upon exiting if you had sussed what they were doing in there. This will, after all, only lead to potential awkwardness.
- Bad Smells: Keep Them to a Minimum
There are some bad smells we cannot entirely control. They are embarrassing and unpleasant to even think about, never mind encounter or cause, but they are also unavoidable to an extent.
Meanwhile, there are the smells we purposefully release whilst in the restroom, such as perfumes, in order to ‘freshen up’.
Whilst we might love the perfume we choose to wear though, it bears remembering that that is why we are wearing it rather than those around us; just as you might not want to smell of the patchouli essential oil your colleague insists on seemingly bathing in neither does she probably want to leave work smelling like your favourite celebrity footballer’s wife.
At worst, a colleague might even be allergic to your signature or favourite scent and failing to contain it could cause a medical emergency. You never know, so play it (or rather, spray it) safe and when using perfumes in the office bathroom, be discreet.
- Hovering: the Fine Art of Making the Restroom Less Hygienic for Everyone
Last but not least, and to end on a rather unsavoury image, but do so to try and put a stop to one of the worst office toilet etiquette faux pas: do not be a hoverer.
Hovering over the toilet rather than sitting upon it does not keep your tush clean. Rather, increasing the distance between your body and the toilet bowl, and water within, only increases the danger of splash back hitting you, and the toilet seat. This means you stand to (pun intended) actually make the whole process, yourself and the toilet more ‘germy’…not less.