Assigned Next to the Women’s Restroom

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about relocating her work space:

Employee A is constantly sighing and going into the bathroom at least 8 times in 3 hours daily. Employee B’s office is right next to the bathroom and the walls are very thin. When Employee A walks past Employee B’s office, she constantly sighs and makes sad noises. Then she enters the bathroom and continues with the sighing.

Employee B is upset because she hears the constant sighing and constant bathroom breaks by Employee A. Employee B has asked to be moved to another area away from the bathroom because she is so distracted by the constant sighing and bathroom breaks, and says she is getting stomach aches and anxiety from the situation.

Employee A has been counseled about her constant breaks away from her desk but has not disclosed if she has a medical problem and needs an accommodation.

Signed—Need To Be Relocated

Dear Need To Be Relocated:

Three well-known words in the world of work are location, location, location. That is not only true of where a business is best placed for maximum profit, but is also true for where employees are assigned a work space. I assume you have submitted this question about an employee’s request to be moved to another spot because you have had that request made to you.

For making this more personal let’s suppose Employee A is named Ann and Employee B is named Betty.  Each has a problem. Ann complains about being in a workspace next to the thinly-walled Women’s Restroom. She is especially disturbed because Betty frequently passes by her desk to enter the Restroom. More than that Ann complains that Betty has a habit of sighing as she passes by and while within its facility.

What might solve Ann and Betty problem. A supervisor or whoever manages this office has several overlapping options:

  1. Tell Ann and Betty to find a solution.
  2. Order Ann and Betty to exchange desks.
  3. Order that all employees  rotate workspaces.
  4. Counsel Betty to get a medical exam—one that will make her restroom visits less frequent.
  5. Put on the staff agenda the issue of Ann and Betty’s problems and location of workspaces.

There possibly are other options, but these are all I can see from this distance. Choice of which option will best address Ann and Betty’s specific concerns, of course, must be made in light of the culture and tradition of your work organization. Knowing your culture will inform you if these problems should be brought to Human Resources or someone at a level above.

My thoughts are that the office manager of your work space should have a three-way conversation with Ann and Betty to problem solve. See if they can come to at least a trial of a short-term solution.

It is also my feeling that no one should have to be assigned permanently next to the restroom. The office manager should present a plan for space rotation or that the staff should collaboratively be engaged in accomplishing an efficient and effective allocation of its work space. Such a topic might become an engaging endeavor of how to muffle the noise from the restroom, perhaps with white noise, and how to beatify the décor with green plants and artwork.

Might any of these thoughts help you reflect on what best to do or to spark a different solution?The problem you present is one of annoyance and annoyances can be lessened if not solved. The big question is what is your work group doing to make your workplace effective? That is a question that rises above annoyance. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. That’s what merits the attention of all in your workspace.  Will you let us know what you decide?

William Gorden