Benchmarking in washrooms

23rd of November 2017 Article by Lynn Webster
Benchmarking in washrooms

ECJ's UK correspondent Lynn Webster reports on a new study into office washroom standards.

It is essential to periodically highlight FM realities, which is what the recent Kimberly-Clark Professional UK Benchmark Report 2017 on Office Washroom Standards has done. The office washroom has been shown to be more of an issue than openly acknowledged.

Surely every FM knows what is wrong with office washroom facilities in general? Surely these same FMs know what might be wrong with their own office washroom facilities, addressing these issues on a continuous basis, preventing user dissatisfaction? The report suggests otherwise.

It raises several issues that need to be viewed in a more critical light. The first of these is to consider the discrepancy between the often negative realities of user experience and FM awareness of this situation. How is user feedback and comment encouraged and collected?

Smiley faces, comments books and whiteboards can only be useful as tools within a larger tool kit. Are these features used? How, and how frequently, is the resulting data examined, and by whom? Does anyone ever just ask the users what they think on a face-to-face basis? What is the FM’s experience as a user of the office washroom facilities they manage?

Perception can be at the heart of user experience, and while we might need to admit we cannot please all the people all the time, we at least need to take steps to try to do just that. FMs are faced with managing these perceptions, and associated expectations, in conjunction with the realities of ensuring washroom cleanliness and hygiene. The frequency of cleaning, scheduling checks in relation to work patterns within that workplace are the FM’s responsibility; but what are user perceptions of the results?

Is the cleaning specification up-to-date, adapted to take account of user feedback and benchmarking exercises? User expectations, as stated in the report, are far from unreasonable: smear-free mirrors and taps; surfaces that are wiped and free of soap; puddles of water and paper towel debris; an odour-free or gently-scented space; replenished dispensers that dispense quality products; dryers that work; dry, clean flooring free of scraps of tissue; waste and sanitary bins that are not overflowing. FMs should recognise how these expectations drive perceptions.

Identifying and benchmarking against best practice models and examples is essential. Exercises of this type will be both formal and informal but FMs should bear in mind the point that individual employees are a captive audience of sorts. The average office worker doesn’t tend to have a choice when it comes to washrooms, with the opportunity to nip out to use more well-appointed facilities unlikely and undesirable!

What every office worker does have though is the ability to personally benchmark, using their everyday experiences at home, out shopping, on holiday, to recognise the very minimum that they might expect at work. FMs should look to harness this approach, alongside the more formal methodologies, and improve the washroom experience for everyone.

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