Hygiene can’t be the only consideration when it comes to maintaining and upgrading facility bathrooms if FMs want to protect their bottom line.
A discussion about what constitutes the perfect commercial bathroom is one just about anyone is happy to avoid. Nobody needs to be reminded about the benefits of a clean bathroom when it comes to maintaining hygiene in a facility, but for most of us that’s the only context in which we consider the effectiveness of our washrooms.
The needs to change, especially in venues that attract big crowds. By considering the benefits of bathrooms in such a narrow way, we are ignoring the potential that a modernised, technologically-amplified upgrade can bring to the entire facility.
That’s right: a better bathroom means better business for all.
Before we look at the two major elements that should be addressed when considering a revamping of bathroom facilities, let’s take a look at some startling facts and consider the effect they can have on a facility:
- Standing water in a toilet is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria that can enter the air when the water surface is disrupted.
- These bacteria often end up in soap dispensers. Germ levels can be so high that one University of Arizona microbiology professor compared using soap from compromised dispensers to washing your hands in the toilet.
- Studies from the American Society for Microbiology show that one-third of men and one-eighth of women don’t wash their hands in public restrooms.
- Eighty-two percent of Americans say they frequently or occasionally observe people leaving commercial washrooms without cleaning their hands, suggesting the future above may be on the low side.
- Of those that do wash their hands, only around 30 percent of men and 60 percent of women of women do so properly (wetting hands, adding soap, scrubbing for 15 to 20 seconds, rinsing and drying).
- Approximately 32 percent of bacteria found in bathrooms are not present in other public environments.
- Germ levels stabilise in the average restroom only five hours after cleaning is completed.
The importance of experience
Hygiene considerations are not the concern of facility managers alone. As the statistics above indicate, the poor cleaning practices of users are just as worrying. That said, modernising the bathroom experience has the potential to go a long way in curbing these bad habits.
Over 70 percent of people say they have had a bad washroom experience. One-third of people say they avoid public and commercial bathrooms altogether, mostly due to these experiences.
That may not be seen as a concern of significant priority for FMs, but it should when considered on a facility-wide scale. In an attempt to limit their need for the bathroom as much as possible, facility patrons are limiting what they eat or drink. People with continence issues are spending less time at facilities, further reducing potential spend.
Patrons with babies and young children avoid facilities where they think the bad hygiene of other change room users could pose health risks to their family. The direct financial and even brand impact is undeniable.
Experience matters. The good news is that there are a range of products and services available to boost the user experience and, potentially, overall revenue. Some of these are:
- Wash and dry systems that encourage use by providing soap, water and drying at a single point.
- Sealed soap dispensers with motion-detecting features that allow the machine’s contents to remain sterile.
- Touchless solutions that minimise user contact with surfaces, especially around the sink area.
- Wireless technology that allows cleaning technicians to monitor stock and battery levels within all bathrooms and undertake maintenance in periods where demand is low.
Design is also a consideration here. Walls that descend to the floor will make those who suffer from shy bladder or shy bowel syndrome feel more comfortable, while providing ample space for cleaners to conduct work without disrupting those who need access to the bathroom makes the whole process a lot easier for everyone.
Another consideration that aligns with user experience while lowering expenses is sustainable design. By upgrading the bathroom in accordance with green standards, facilities can offer modern comforts in the process of cutting costs.
A traditional toilet uses 11 litres of water per flush. Replacing just one of them with an eco-friendly toilet, which averages a use of three litres per flush, reduces water use by 140 kilolitres per year and associated expenses by $352. Again, that’s just one toilet. Similar savings can be found by installing taps with flow restrictors and waterless urinals.
Paper use is also a major concern in sustainable bathrooms. While poor quality toilet paper may save a few dollars, it can cause blockages in the pan and pipes of low-flush toilets that cost far more to fix and leave facilities out of order. As for hand towels, machines that dispense continuous units from the top of the stack are likely to create less waste as they allow for smoother withdrawal.
Other more modern and innovative features can take even relatively new facilities to the next level. Indoor plants can naturally purify the air, while grey water irrigation systems combine with innovative amenities to cut water use by 80 percent and reduce waste by 60 percent.
In the near future, FMs will also be able to connect fixtures to their IoT network in order to monitor and manage water consumption, pressure and energy use.
A cleaner future
The benefits of considering user experience and sustainability alongside hygiene concerns when determining whether your facility’s bathrooms are up to scratch is clear. Where once we may have thought of them as little more than a mundane necessity, we can now see that a modern and comfortable bathroom has the potential to boost our bottom line in ways that truly make a difference.
Image: 123RF’s Yaowarat Boonyarattaphan © 123RF.com