How modern lifestyles are impacting washroom design

Armitage Shanks Offices Washrooms

The way we live is changing and there’s no turning back. Distinct boundaries that once existed between work and leisure are becoming ever more blurred and we’re following a global trend towards urbanisation. At the same time, society is becoming increasingly conscious of physical and mental wellbeing, and how this is affected by our surroundings and the facilities we use.

These shifts naturally have huge implications for the designers of commercial washrooms, as such spaces have a particularly significant role to play in boosting end users’ wellbeing and satisfaction levels. In the workplace, a washroom that truly supports employees’ needs has the power to improve morale and productivity, while in hotels, restaurants and shopping centres, a positive experience can improve a consumer’s connection with a brand and encourage repeat custom.


That’s what was found in our recent study, Creating Better Washrooms report

. Through surveys of office workers and washroom designers across Europe, as well as academic research, the study outlines the various factors that govern modern washroom design – such as gender, sustainability and wellbeing – and how designers can deliver more effective and impactful spaces. One of the major themes that has come out of the report is how the evolving design of washrooms is being affected by modern lifestyles and the trend for city-based living, working and recreation.


How modern urbanites use washrooms

The growing number of people who live and work in cities not only has practical implications for washroom designers in terms of limited space; changing urban demographics and more flexible working patterns are also affecting how people use washrooms and the levels of comfort and practicality they expect.


In our study, we found that 71% of workers visit the washroom in their office more than twice per day, while a fifth go more than three times a day, highlighting its significance in employees’ daily lives. As such, seven out of 10 end users said that they expect the same quality and experience from their workplace washroom as from their bathroom at home.


Washrooms are also being used for a wider range of reasons. We’re more aware of our personal hygiene and appearance, and have greater expectations when it comes to facilities that support our personal and business social patterns, such as the way we commute to work, seek stress relief, exercise and prepare for after-work socialising. Aside from going to the toilet, our study found that 59% of employees use their workplace washroom to clean themselves, 50% use it to check their appearance, 20% use it to change their clothes and 17% use it simply to escape the office environment. Designers must therefore provide spaces that support such behaviours.


The impact of washroom design on wellbeing

Many studies have demonstrated that there is a strong relationship between indoor environments and occupants’ mental and physical wellbeing, and this study confirms that this extends to workplace washrooms.


Around 90% of designers agreed that the washroom can have an impact on employees’ wellbeing and job satisfaction. In fact, they rated wellbeing as the most influential work or social factor that will impact commercial washroom design over the next five years. This belief was shared by end users, nearly three-quarters of whom agreed that the quality of their workplace washroom has an effect on their personal comfort and wellbeing at work, while 64% believed it had an effect on their job satisfaction.


A challenge for designers

Given the evidence linking washrooms to improved job satisfaction and productivity, it’s 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. Even a small uplift in washroom quality could contribute to long-term savings for companies thanks to happier and healthier employees.


However, our research shows that just half of designers feel it is extremely important for a washroom to fit with the needs of the end user, and that there are currently clear disparities between designers’ and end users’ priorities. This suggests that more needs to be done in the industry to understand the wider benefits of aligning with end users. Only by keeping abreast of their needs will designers be able to deliver facilities that are fit for purpose, have longevity and continue to support wellbeing and commercial objectives.


As well as examining the impact of modern lifestyles on washroom design, our Creating Better Washrooms Report also includes useful findings on current perceptions around factors such as sustainability, gender and smart technology. The conclusion? That sustained collaboration with stakeholders at every stage of the supply chain, as well as end users, is the key to delivering washrooms that go beyond mere function and truly benefit society. It’s something we’re committed to at Armitage Shanks: working with partners and the wider industry to implement evidence-based design so that commercial washrooms not only play a central role in improving profitability, but ask genuinely enhance the lives of those who use them.


Get more insights and exclusive findings by downloading the full Creating Better Washrooms report

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