The Complete Guide to Office Restroom Etiquette

In a perfect world, public restrooms wouldn’t exist.  We’d all have the luxury of emptying our bowels and bladders in the comfort of our own homes and on our own schedules.  But alas, Mother Nature isn’t so kind.  In a moment’s notice, She can summon your insides into hyperactivity, leaving you scrambling for porcelain in often the most deserted locations.  What a sick sense of humor She has.

I, for one, am not above public restrooms.  When you’re on the brink of disaster, there is no sweeter sight than that beautiful, tiled oasis.  But I will be the first to admit that they can be the most awkward places on earth, and in my experience, none being more awkward than the office restroom.

The office restroom brings on a completely different level of complexity in terms of social norms.  When I’m at home, the door often stays open.  But when you’re at work, you’re expelling repulsive toxins from your body right next to the person that you might later be shaking hands with after a business luncheon.  Next to the person who’s got the stapler you need to borrow.  Next to the person who just grabbed a handful of Jolly Ranchers out of the community candy bowl.  You get the idea.

For your reading pleasure, I have assembled the complete guide to office restroom etiquette.  Even if you’re not near as paranoid as I am when it comes to the workplace washroom, I encourage you to read on anyway.  I’m writing from a male’s perspective, but most of these apply to the ladies as well.

  1. If you’re checking for an available stall, don’t peek through the crack in the door.  Ever been on the receiving end of a stall stare?  The most awkward eye contact you will ever make.  I’m sorry, was the 2 feet of floor clearance which exposed my boxers and pants around my ankles not enough evidence for you?  OCUPADO.
  2. If you’re going to bring reading material into a restroom, throw it away when you’re done.  I’m not sure who brought the whole “pay it forward” concept to the public restroom, but it has gone far enough.  Oh, you thought that I might want to leaf through that Better Homes & Gardens mag smothered in your poop germs?  How thoughtful of you.
  3. Guys, if you have to urinate, please use the urinal.  I can’t believe I actually have to tell people this.  For reasons beyond me, I’ve seen people pass up perfectly open urinals and opt to go #1 stand-up style in a stall.  Why would anyone do that?  I don’t care how good of aim you think you have:  you’re going to make a mess of that toilet seat and you will not do a thorough cleanup job.  If you insist on the stall stand-up routine, at least lock the door behind you.  There is nothing more awkward than accidentally stepping into an occupied stall.
  4. Don’t make small talk.  An office restroom is no place to discuss weekend plans.  If a conversation in the hallway makes its way into the restroom, said conversation should stop at the urinal/stall.  Quick rule of thumb:  if you can’t see their face, don’t speak.
  5. If you’re having a blowout while others are in the restroom, please allow everyone to exit before you even think about showing your face.  Maybe this is just me being me, but it boggles my mind when I make the first move toward the exit, I’m washing my hands, and suddenly, Captain Splatter exits his stall and saddles up at the sink next to me.   WHY?!  You couldn’t wait 20 seconds so that I could exit the restroom first, leaving each of our identities a mystery (the way it should be)?  You’ve shown your face, and now I know…and you know, and you know that I know, and I know that you know.  I’m sorry, but this relationship has been tainted beyond repair.
  6. Courtesy flush, courtesy flush, courtesy flush.  Are you paying the water bill?  What are you waiting for???
  7. If you build a nest on the toilet seat, please take it down before exiting the stall.  Any fellow nest builders out there?  Depends on the venue for me.  If I’m in a disgusting gas station restroom, I’m layering that toilet paper a mile high.   If I’m at a nice restaurant, a single layer will typically suffice.  At any rate, clean up after yourself.  Leaving your used, warm nest behind for someone else is almost as gross as not flushing.
  8. And finally, the most important rule of them all:  WASH.  YOUR.  HANDS.  This is straight out of a Seinfeld episode.  I am absolutely baffled when I’m standing next to someone at the sink and they merely sprinkle cold water on their hands.  What are you, five?  And no, the hand sani dispenser next to the door does not serve as a hand-washing substitute. Use soap and warm water like a big boy and get back to work.

So there you have it.  If you follow these simple rules, you won’t be “that guy” in your office (the guy that had Mexican the night before and everyone knows it).

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    • Eli
    • December 6th, 2011

    Utter brilliance. Two lids up!

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