Picture it: New York City, 2005. I was sitting in a bathroom stall in the ladies’ room of a women’s fashion magazine. My stomach was cramping and I was bathed in sweat. In the stall next to me was another woman. We were locked in a stand-off. Would the other one flush and finish? Five minutes went by, then 10. I cursed this woman — this worthy bathroom foe.
Why, oh why, is the workplace bathroom such a difficult place to, well, use the bathroom?
For women, it’s a complex space. We cry, we freshen up for meetings, we psych ourselves up at the sink, we stare at the mirror and contemplate our life’s purpose. While all this is going on, there are women trapped in their stalls, desperate to move their bowels and get on with their days. How can we do this when we treat the bathroom like an extension of the office break room?
Frankly, I blame the open-plan office for driving us into the bathroom for respite. It can feel like we're so vulnerable in our cubicles, and the bathroom is the only place to hide. That said, let's not forget that the bathroom has an essential purpose: for people to use the freaking bathroom.
How can we even hope to crack the glass ceiling if we’re undermining each other’s basic functions? In my 10+ years of professional life, I’ve seen colleagues with college degrees become social savages when they enter the restroom. It’s one thing to use the bathroom for a quick cosmetic touch-up and moment of solitude, and quite another to use it for full-face makeovers, phone calls with your therapist, and, in one true case, to shave your legs in the sink.
Here are a few ways to turn your workplace restroom into the sanitary, private haven it should be — because we all need to do our business and then get back to business.