Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bathroom Solutions to Keep Staff and Students from Circling the Dropout Drain

One of the very first times I began to realize the importance of bathrooms was when I was a new dean at the University of Cincinnati’s Raymond Walters College. There had been some unrest among staff so I set up a Quality of Worklife Committee. The committee was to uncover issues that were lowering staff morale so we could work on them and raise morale.

When the committee first met, one problem came up immediately and forcefully. It seemed the hinges on the door to the women’s staff lounge (euphemisim for bathroom) were out of adjustment. So, the door never closed completely. There was about an inch or less opening between the door and the doorframe. Though no one would ever be exposed in that slit of an opening, it left the female staff who used the bathroom feeling vulnerable.

I had the door fixed that day and the effect on morale was immediate and very positive. When we then had the bathroom painted, put in a small couch, side table and table lamp put in from stuff we had in storage. The response was amazing. Morale shot up. Other staff issues seemed to fade away for a while anyhow. Just from a bathroom, I mean lounge upgrade.

Solution 1

Often the solution is simple and apparent. Take a look at and your bathrooms and see what can be done to make them function better. Actually go into each of them to check them out personally. See problems or aspects that might make you feel at all hesitant to use the facilities there, broken stall doors, dingy paint, dirty sinks or floors, doors without locks, no toilet paper, paper towels on the floor or an overflowing waste basket…. – get them fixed. The effort to upgrade such personal areas will be noted and make a strong statement about your dedication to customer service.

Solution 2

A few pieces of furniture in female bathrooms can turn them into “lounges” as well; places of quiet retreat where female staffers or students can sit, relax and share thoughts. Again like at better restaurants. Remember that women prefer to use the lounge together so make it comfortable to do so. You will be amazed what that would do for staff or student morale.

Across town in Cinci a few years later, another school, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College was making its students feel comfortable and at ease with its bathrooms. The dean of students had placed a small lamp stand in the entry way to the ladies’ bathroom. On top of the stand, she had placed a container of dried flowers. The students loved it.

Solution 3

Any school can buy some flowers to spruce up their bathrooms and make them look like lounges in better restaurants. This works best in a women’s bathroom. In either, men’s or womens’ rooms, pictures and or photographs on the walls help spruce up and class up a bathroom.

Uhhh, in the men’s room, leave some brochures or memos you have been wanting to get students to read. They will pick them up and read them while in the “library” (read stall) Men like to read while otherwise engaged.

At Briarcliffe College in New York, the bathrooms were identified by students as a major source of dissatisfaction and even friction. The graffiti on the faded, gray cinderblock walls and stalls was often racist and bigoted. Fortunately, the lights bouncing off the dirtied ceiling tiles were dim enough to make some of it more difficult to read. We had determined that the bathrooms were so disliked that they were a contributing factor in student dissatisfaction and drop outs.

We had the bathrooms painted a bright color. Too much to drink blue might not have been everyone’s favorite shade in the men’s room, but the facility director chose it for its bright stay awake quality as well as its ease of cleaning. I also think he got it on clearance to save a few bucks in the budget and it sure covered the walls well. A few gallons of anti-graffiti paint made the walls look new and clean. Replacing the light bulbs with higher wattage natural balanced fluorescent bulbs made the area brighter and more relaxing. A good scrubbing of the floor followed by a waxing added a sense of clean. Sinks and toilet seats were scrubbed. A daily check removed any new graffiti and touched up any scratched paint.

Solution 4

Bathrooms came off the complaint list. Retention actually went up. Of course, there were additional customer service changes put in place but we were able to recognize a positive response to the inexpensive (paint, cleaning, light bulbs) improvements.

Below are some pictures of the bathrooms at the Career College of Northern Nevada in Reno following an updating. The president/owner of the school had visited a local casino and seen how the bathrooms there were done. He decided that his students deserved bathrooms as beautiful as at a casino. He had the bathroom walls covered with foot square marble tiles like at what he had seen in better casinos and hotels.

The result? Students feel better about the school and themselves. They see their worth reflected in the shiny marble.

By the way, if there were an award for the cleanest and most consistently neatest bathrooms at a school, the award would go to Temple University. Granted I did not see every bathroom and none of the dorms but what I saw was reflective of the pride students and the staff seem to take in the campus. Temple has had a push on customer service going for a few years now and the results seem to be clearly paying off.

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