Wellbeing to impact washroom design

A new study into the impact commercial washroom design can have on user experience, commissioned by manufacturer Armitage Shanks and led by chartered architect and academic at the Belfast School of Architecture, Dr Saul Golden, has revealed that wellbeing is the number one social factor that designers think will impact washroom design over the next five years.

The report, ‘Creating better washrooms’, found that nine in 10 office washroom designers believe this space can have an impact on end-users’ wellbeing – a view that is shared by three quarters of office workers themselves. Sixty-four per cent of office workers surveyed even said that workplace washrooms affect their general job satisfaction.

The findings of the report demonstrate a strong link between commercial washrooms and employee health and wellbeing – an increasingly vital asset for organisations looking to attract and retain the best employees and improve their brand image.

The report was launched in front of media and customers during Armitage Shanks’ ‘Washroom Week’ – a series of insight-led events aimed at the architecture and design communities. The event featured an expert panel talk examining the findings and their implications on the world of washrooms. The panel comprised Dr. Saul Golden, ceramics designer, Robin Levien, architectural consultant, Hsi Sung Thomas and design historian, Libby Sellers. The group, chaired by London Design Guide editor, Max Fraser, discussed the conclusions and focused on changes around sustainability, gender, social media and technology within the washroom space.

The study surveyed 2,000 office workers and 400 commercial washroom designers from across Europe on a range of topics, including wellbeing, gender, sustainability, technology and social media. This data was then compared with global studies to outline how designers can deliver more effective and impactful spaces that meet the needs of end-users – now and in the future – in light of changing work-life patterns, demographics and technological innovation.

The study highlights that the global trend towards urbanisation and flexible working patterns means people are using workplace washrooms for a wider range of reasons, with them spending an increasing amount of time in these so-called ‘backstage microspaces’ to prepare for their ‘front stage appearance’.

When comparing designers’ and end-users’ priorities, the study found that, while there are broad similarities, end users rate aspects such as privacy and space more highly than designers think.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Saul M Golden said: “With commercial washroom quality increasingly acknowledged as an important contributor to people’s workplace satisfaction and consumer choice, this research provides timely insights for washroom designers to better adapt their projects from short-term trends to longer-term shifts in user demand.

“The findings offer new insights into people’s views on washroom hygiene, health and comfort, as well as a holistic view of the environmental, economic and technological aspects of washroom design. They therefore aim to help designers deliver value-added washrooms that not only act as more competitive comfort-driven, accessible and inclusive spaces, but also contribute to company brand image and potential ROI.”

Stephen Ewer, managing director of Ideal Standard UK (Armitage Shanks’ parent company): said: “The way people use commercial washrooms is undoubtedly changing as society becomes increasingly centred on city-based living, working and leisure activities. Given the evidence linking washrooms to improved job satisfaction and productivity, it’s also clear that there must be a move away from design that focuses solely on hygiene and utilitarian features, and towards design that considers personal comfort and other factors that affect wellbeing.”

To download the full ‘Creating better washrooms’ report, visit: www.idealspec.co.uk/resources/whitepapers.html