Restrooms are 100% necessary in all offices and yet they can often fall behind to other, more glamorous office features like breakrooms, cafeterias, or reception areas.
If you've worked in any of the offices I have, restrooms generally fall into one of the three "Terrible U's":
Uncomfortable Restrooms – Whether the bathroom is too small and right next to where people work or congregate, or the bathroom itself seems to magnify even the slightest noises, people can loathe using the facilities in your office. When faced with the prospect of using the restroom and feeling uncomfortable, most people opt to go somewhere else or wait until they are home. There are probably studies that have found billions of dollars in lost work due to people leaving the office to go.
Unclean Restrooms – Everyone hates a dirty restroom with paper towels on the floor and mysteriously wet floors. If you come out of the restroom feeling worse than you did before you went in, something is probably wrong. Perhaps you should think of—or rethink your plan on maintaining clean facilities. That might mean finally hiring a cleaning service for the office or holding people accountable to actually keeping it nice throughout the day. Also, consider what how potential clients might respond to the conditions of your restrooms!
Unsupplied Restrooms – There is nothing worse than trying to wash your hands when air-bubbly soap coughs out of the dispenser, followed by cold-to-tepid water, followed by unstocked paper towels or a broken hand dryer.
But today, I think we can and should add an additional "W" to that list in the form of Wayfinding.
We have talked previously about the need for good wayfinding plans in offices and how many offices can be confusing mazes without adequate sings and wayfinding. While you can obviously ask someone, not everyone is totally confident and comfortable hitting up the restroom right before their big sales presentation.
That said, Steve Jobs famously tried to use restrooms as a collaboration point in Pixar's Emeryville offices:
One important element of the Pixar campus is its large atrium space. Steve Jobs believed that unplanned collaborations were vitally important to the company culture, and this atrium space was to act as a melting pot of meeting space. He even wanted the atrium to house the only campus restrooms to force such collaboration. But while there are obviously more than one set of restrooms, the idea of unplanned collaboration still exists.
Luckily, some companies have taken a different—and quite fun—approach to marking their restrooms for those working or visiting their offices.
Below: To liven up the standard restroom doors, Google has used their Android brand characters and icons, as well as differentiating between the two using bright, and eye-catching colors.
Another example of large, oversized signs exists in this office. They use the standard restroom symbols, but make them huge so they are literally impossible to miss.
This entertainment company has added classic black-and-white movie shots to the doors of their restrooms to denote location and male/female uses.
The Pill Box Workspace – Housed in an old medical factory, this company uses the building's history to create fun signage for their restrooms.
This high-tech company uses a high-heeled shoe to denote the women's restroom.