What stuff are office workers’ dreams made of? A promotion to the executive suite? A window office? A hefty expense account? When it comes to the restroom, at least, their aspirations are pretty modest. What they want is a sparkling-clean, odor-free environment.

Those were the results of a new survey conducted by Infogroup/ORC on behalf of Kimberly-Clark Professional, which found six in ten office workers longing for a clean bathroom at work.

Sadly, the actual condition of office restrooms generally doesn’t meet these expectations. When selecting from a list of choices:
• Only 38 percent of respondents described their workplace restrooms as “always being super-clean.”
• 26 percent described a situation that was far more precarious. Visiting the restroom was “a 50-50 gamble, sometimes clean, other times a disaster.”
• 25 percent said the bathrooms at their offices were not as clean as those in their homes.
• 7 percent said they found all public restrooms “basically disgusting,” because the thought of other people using the facilities simply grossed them out.
• On a good note, only one percent worried about “catching the crud.” 

How Do You Like Your Ride?
On the vertical commute from the lobby to the workplace, what pie-in-the-sky amenities were most appealing to the nation’s office workers? A headline news service was the top choice, followed by:
• Funny but clean jokes piped in to put you in a good mood
• The ability to select your own personalized “elevator” music
• A cushy sofa or chair to sit on
• A bar
• A cone of silence

Workers Care about Quality
While restroom cleanliness is of paramount importance, management shouldn’t give short shrift to the products used in office building bathrooms. Eighty-three percent of office workers said they would notice if management switched from a quality tissue, towel or soap product to an inferior version of the same products. Only 17 percent said they would not notice such a change.

“Office workers were also split over whether they were feeling the love from their building’s management,” said Peter Leahy, Kimberly-Clark Professional office building marketing manager. “While 46 percent said they genuinely believed that the company that managed their building wanted to keep them happy, 42 percent didn’t think so, with nearly a third of those indicating the company was more interested in saving money than taking care of them.”

Sick Co-Workers Cause Concerns
We know what kinds of conditions lead to office worker bliss, but what about the alternative? Co-workers who come to work sick and infect their colleagues were the chief cause of office unhappiness, according to 44 percent of those surveyed. Yet, even though it is widely known that hand washing can help prevent the spread of germs, three-quarters of respondents said they would “do nothing” to co-workers who didn’t wash up, other than avoid contact with them as much as possible. Only 14 percent would stage a group intervention and confront those who didn’t wash their hands about their unhygienic habits. A mean-spirited minority (3 percent) threatened to get the non-hand washers sick “to teach them a lesson.”

So in the absence of direct action to change these behaviors, what do office workers think building management should do to create a more hygienic environment? The top choice was having them install automated hand sanitizers throughout the building, according to 67 percent of respondents. Eleven percent opted for a different approach: Offering cash rewards and prizes for good hygiene practices, such as washing up after every restroom visit or covering your nose when you sneeze. A much smaller number selected more draconian measures, such as banishing sick workers from the building (5 percent) or hiring a washroom hygiene “cop” to stock supplies and yell at people who didn’t wash their hands (5 percent).

The Germiest Places
And, lastly, what is the germiest place in the office? This distinction went to – you guessed it – the restroom, with a third of respondents making this selection. Next up was the kitchen or break room. Co-workers’ offices came in third, while the lobby and elevators tied for fourth place. The individual’s own office was next, followed by the boss’s office, which was chosen by only 2 percent of respondents. Perhaps respondents were worried that the boss would see their answers!

Survey Methodology
The survey of 827 office building workers nationwide was conducted by telephone from March 18-22 and March 25-29, 2010 by Infogroup/ORC on behalf of Kimberly-Clark Professional. The margin of error is plus or minus four percent.