One cause of back-to-the-office stress? Returning to the office bathroom

While the millions of people who’ve spent the pandemic working from home have been stressed, at least one concern was off the table: using the office bathroom. 

However, as some companies begin to transition their employees back to work, so returns poo paranoia.

A new survey from the UK-based gastro health company The Gut Stuff shows that 18% of soon-to-be former work-at-homers’ number-one concern is going number two.

The study of 2,000 British workers revealed 67% are uncomfortable going to the bathroom on the job — and more than half actually leave their place of business to take care of business. Twenty-eight percent have ventured to another floor to do the deed, and 18% have gone back to their “home office” to go to the bathroom. Eighteen percent just hold it in, which isn’t healthy to do.

There’s a scientific term for this social anxiety, by the way: “parcopresis,” and it’s thought to affect women disproportionately.

“It’s vital for employers to try to help break the loo taboo,” say The Gut Stuff founders Lisa and Alana Macfarlane.

This includes physical fixes like making sure those revealing gaps in your work bathroom stall are closed, and that there’s adequate TP at your disposal. They suggest polling employees as to what could make their experience better — perhaps some noise-masking music or air freshener, and a “sign” system to make those awkward knocks at the door a thing of the past. 

“It’s so much more than feeling embarrassed — employers have a responsibility to make sure their team’s health and wellbeing is supported in the back-to-work transition, and that absolutely includes encouraging people to go, when they need to go,” the Macfarlanes say.