News & Opinion | December 18, 2019 7:15 am

This Company Made an Uncomfortable Toilet to Shorten Bathroom Breaks

That again: They’re trying to take away your last refuge at work

Toilet restroom stall
What if your standard office toilet was replaced with an uncomfortable one?
Fabian Krause/EyeEm via Getty

We work in a world obsessed with productivity, and for the most part people have put up with it. Open-concept offices took away physical privacy, new communication tools took away work-life balance, and catered lunch took away the hour-long luncheon (remember those?). But there’s one thing the corporate machine could never take away: bathroom breaks. Until now.

The U.K. company StandardToilet has designed a new toilet seat with the purpose of reducing time spent in the bathroom, and it’s looking to install it in offices around the world. According to Wired, the toilet “sits at a downward angle of 13 degrees” which “will cause strain on the legs” around the five-minute mark, sort of like you’re doing a low-level squat. So no matter how bad you need a moment to yourself, no matter how funny those Instagram memes are that you’re scrolling through, users will theoretically be too uncomfortable to keep sitting.

That seems a little too cruel, no? Surely there must be some other benefit besides kicking people off the john and back into their office chair? Not according to Mahabir Gill, founder of StandardToilet. Wired spoke with Gill, who said the “main benefit is to the employers, not the employees. It saves the employer money.”

Americans don’t have to worry about walking into a stall with the StandardToilet just yet. Gill is in the early stages and reportedly “in talks with several local councils and major motorway service stations” in the U.K., as he is promoting his number two tech as a solution for public and private restrooms alike. Of course, there are plenty of potential uses outside the office, including sports stadiums and department stores where bathroom lines can get backed up. But who is trying to spend more time in one of those stalls than absolutely necessary?

Looking at time spent on the toilet as “lost productivity” is just as misguided as looking at Americans watching the impeachment hearings the same way. Wired spoke with Dr. Charlotte Jones, co-author of research on safe and accessible toilet spaces, who had this to say: “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.” Hear, hear!

The bathroom stall is the last bastion of privacy in the workplace, and if companies try to tamper with that, they’re going to lose more than productivity. 

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