November 12, 2007

Before signing that contract - check out the restroom!

Forget location. Don't care about fancy foyers or top-notch meeting facilities. After the basic conditions are in place (people, people, people and decent compensation) I've come to judge workplace by the importance given to bathrooms. So far, my experiences leave much to be desired...

1) Privacy: One of the companies I consult for is located in what they lovingly describe as "a building with a long history." (Actually, it's only ~40 years old but looks like it was built during the Ottoman era.) It's clearly not suited to the cubicle-like partitions or insufficient elevators or even sunlight in some of the offices, but what bothers me the most are its restrooms.

- In the side of the floor where I spend most of my time there are only 2 bathrooms, so there's almos invariably a line.
- Due to their strategic location, Daphne from Travel can literally take a tally of when and how long each person in the floor "has to go."
- Worse, they're coed (a-la-Ally McBeal, only that the individual doors to the toilets actually face the hallway!) This means you're in perennial panic that you forgot to lock properly and somebody else will catch you with your pants down, since the toilet is perfectly visible from the door. (And yes, they tell me it's happened before).

2) Image: This same company has an executive floor with a spacious boardroom and state-of-the-art teleconference room... right next to some very amusing bathrooms. For starters, they doors open to the hallway (yes, even here). And somebody seems to think they actually need instructions: next to the lever to flush the toilet, a half-curled P-Touch printed label reads (in English, because they obviously get lots of important visitors from abroad) "push here." So you try to push it and nothing happens. (Actually, one needs to pull the lever in those archaic toilets). VIPs must really be amused.

3) Discrimination: Speaking of executive floors, the builders of another hight-tech company in Raanana I know well seem to have forgotten that women can be executives too. The seventh-floor of their relatively new HQ houses the C-level suites, while the other half hast the company's dining room/cafeteria, which was busy for many hours of the day. I remember the days when everyone would notice when the (female) Legal consel or the (female) CFO "had to go" because they had to use the ones inside the communal dining room. This is because, well, the only toilet inside the exec suites had been claimed by the guys. And yes, there were at least 3 (female) secretaries last time I checked (guess which toilets they also used?) BTW, the same General Counsel and the CFO have left the company since then, so I sincerely hope things have improved for their current (female) CFO.

4) Attention: It seems like some companies realize this is the space that gets the most attention from employees. My CI Guru says in conferences that it's often the one place you'll get get those *&%%@! Executives to actually read your work. (Haven't tried... yet) But seems he's onto something - just recently, someone at my husband's company decided to add little vinyl pockets next to the toilets in their (thankfully not coed) restrooms. What do they contain? The company's official internal newsletter. Never waste a minute away from work.

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