Clean toilets at work? Great but they can raise a stink too

It has happened with everyone of us at some point of time in life.

We hear about something – it could be a word or phrase, the name of a place/song/term, etc for the first time in your life, and almost as coincidence, you hear it again; as if someone divine wanted you to follow it up and that ‘that’ gets inside your head for the better.

A couple of days back I stumbled across an article where a publishing house in India got an award from Great Places to Work for you know what.

As if on cue, today’s classified sections in a UAE paper which I subscribe to had an advertisement for the same organisation. Turns out they have an operation for many countries, running a year-long campaign or whatever to have companies vying for the honour and for normal job-workers to vote for their employers.

Apparently they have 85 metrics to base their surveys and findings but you need to be in it to find it. I gave it a skip.

Paymasters, employee welfare, extracurricular activities … will surely be part of those. But if there was one small unsual indicator that, you could say, tells us if a company is a good place to have a job, what would that be?

I am curious to get your feedback on this. List out your one as briefly as possible below. I have one – and this applies to companies of a slightly bigger magnitude – Toilets.

Yes, toilets.

At two of my jobs, there were toilets, and there were executive toilets. And at both places the executive toilets were at a common place/floor. The section that housed the HR department. It cannot be a coincidence that swanky tiles, nice mirrors and glistening-clean ceramics are a privilege to them just like that.

In the popular Hindi movie’s sequel, Lage Raho Munnabhai, an imaginary character of Mahatma Gandhi guides the hero on various life situations with simple solutions. One example: A girl wants to know how she can judge a prospective husband on a first date itself whether he is a man of character.

Gandhi’s reply was, ‘observe how he behaves and addresses the waiter of the restaurant they meet up. If he summons without respect, he cannot be trusted to give and take the same in life’.

The point of the story? The reason for special treatment to the HR section is obvious. They are responsible for every job, directly or indirectly, from the hiring of contractors for the toilets to the finance people who will sanction the amount from within the company. In the instance of a newspaper office, the key employees may be the journalists but if the toilets on the HR floor are better than the ones available to the others, there is a mismatch. And it reflects on whether the HR staff may be treating the employees at par or not.

It may not be tangible but as Clayton Christensen, the award-winning professor at Harvard University, puts it in his book, How will you measure your life?: “It all aggregates up in the long run, in life and business.”

Catch the inspiring video here and do tell me your thoughts from your job experiences.

2 thoughts on “Clean toilets at work? Great but they can raise a stink too

  1. As someone who frequently blogs for Great Place to Work, I enjoyed reading this article. First, it’s nice to know more and more people are getting to know us and the work we do. Second, this is a great example of the details that go into creating a great workplace.

    While we don’t necessarily measure the cleanliness of toilets per se, we do survey a significant sample of employees and ask for their thoughts. From this article, it feels like there may be an inequality going on, and that’s unfortunate. Best Companies consistently outperform major stock indices by a factor of three! This means that it’s not only better for employee happiness to create a fair and inspiring workplace, it is also sound business strategy.

    The next question I might ask is how your organization deals with issues such as the one mentioned in this article. Do you have questions or concerns regarding your workplace? Are there avenues in which to convey these concerns to upper management? If there are, does upper management typically listen when concerns are expressed?

    Ideally, you already are an employee of a great workplace. If not, feel free to check us out- we provide some pretty cool services and products that can really make a difference. And if that’s not an option, then remember that it’s a group effort to make a workplace great. Ask yourself, what can I do today to begin working towards a culture of trust and transparency?

    A subtle shift in perspective can go a long way.


    • Thanks for writing in, much appreciate your time and effort for such a lovely comment. My workplace has been a great one so far and so much that there has never been a need to convey any concerns, although this toilet thing may be too trivial to take up cudgels for. And sadly, I am not in a position either to link my employers to your organisation but maybe you could reach out. Ours is a leading publishing house in Abu Dhabi, UAE and maybe posting my blog on some forum of any kind on your website may help.


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