In the age of open-office plans and on-the-go working, it can be difficult to find a quiet place to get things done.
As it turns out, a surprisingly high percentage of people are turning to the bathroom as that quiet spot. A 2013 survey by work-space provider Regus of 800 workers who are based in, or frequently work in, Manhattan found that 13% of respondents had attempted to accomplish work-related tasks from the John.
So we wondered: What the heck are people working on in the bathroom?
For many, working in the restroom may just be a way to escape the buzz of a cramped, noisy office. In New York, for example, the average office has only 217.3 square feet per employee (including common areas), according to data from commercial real-estate market information provider Reis, which is down more than 10 square feet from six years ago.
It may also offer some much-needed privacy. Debbie Rizzo, an employee at public relations firm DRink PR who works in an open office with about 100 members in San Francisco, said she recently spent a morning conducting a full conference call from the bathroom. “I work in an open-office space and oftentimes find the bathroom to be the best spot,” she wrote in an email. “Sometimes I even put them on mute while I brush my teeth.”
Another woman, Marisa Picker, reports once overhearing someone typing on her Blackberry and eating potato chips while sequestered in a bathroom stall at the New York office of a prominent company.
Other professionals said that, because they frequently travel and meet with clients, the bathroom is often the only private place to take a call with a client who needs to talk on short notice. “You have to be ready whenever the client is ready, and if they have a need, you just have to go with it,” says Glynn Murph, a senior account executive at public relations firm Edelman.
Murph recalls one time when she was travelling between Atlanta and Seattle, and she had a client call with an urgent request while she was in the airport. “The quietest place I could find was the restroom,” she said. “They knew I was travelling, so it was going to be a tricky situation.”
Calls certainly seem to be the most common reason that employees head to the bathroom for work. Mary Cate, an IT consultant based in Atlanta, who asked that only her first name be used, said she finds herself taking a call from the restroom about once a week. Often, she says, she’ll be at lunch with one client when another calls with a time-sensitive issue.
“I just don’t want to be rude to the client that I’m with and take other calls, so I have to manoeuvre around it,” she explains.
“You gotta do what you gotta do.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.