As a small business owner, you have a lot on your mind and your restroom isn’t high on that list of priorities. However, having a restroom could be an essential service your business provides to your clients and customers. Did you know that nearly 60% of Americans use a public toilet at least once a week? That’s a lot of opportunities to make your customers like you! Restrooms serve as especially important and safe spaces for people who need to use the toilet more frequently than the general population, such as menstruating persons, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and the elderly or those with certain medical conditions.
Whatever kind of business you run, taking care of your restroom is essential. In this article, we’ll tackle some small business tips you can use, from having a business in your home to safety considerations and maintenance tips.
Know Your Responsibilities
Access to restrooms in public spaces is essential, but there is controversy about who bears the burden of providing them, whether it’s the government, private business, or a public-private partnership. For our part, we feel that this responsibility is shared. In the United States, it’s hard to find local governments that will subsidize public restroom efforts. However, many states’ building codes require providing access to restrooms. Federally, if you have employees, OSHA requirements state you have to provide them access to a bathroom.
If you’re providing restrooms for your patrons, there are requirements based on building codes, as well as following the requirements laid out by the Americans with Disabilities Act. While they are in place to keep your bathroom safe and accessible, following them is the minimum in these aspects.
Consider Your Location
You should take into consideration the place where you do business. Do you operate out of a storefront, or allow customers into your home? The size and kind of business you have might determine how your restroom is set up.
If you run a business out of your home where you see customers, while you might not be required to have your restrooms available to the public, making sure they’re accessible could be an added benefit to your business. The equity in your home can be an effective tool for making these upgrades. Using a cash-out refinance allows you to access your equity without adding a second mortgage, so you can use that cash to make your home’s existing restrooms more accessible or build an addition specifically for customer use.
If you’re in a more commercial space, such as a storefront, likely your restroom has already been designed to follow local building codes and ADA regulations. However, there are still other factors you can consider for your space, such as signage to make the space easy to find for your patrons. Additionally, providing menstrual hygiene products can be an incredibly valuable service. Customers will appreciate having access to them, and this can be a reason for them to return to your business over other businesses.
Keep It Accessible
While we have touched on the ADA, there is so much more to keeping an accessible restroom than just the letter of the law. There are steps you can take to make your bathroom more accessible than just accommodating people with physical disabilities.
One important step is having inclusive restrooms for people of all gender identities. In practice, what is often the easiest is providing single-toilet restrooms that are labeled unisex or all-gendered. This removes any questions about which bathroom gender-nonconforming people should use and provides them with a space safe from harassment.
Making your restrooms accessible for parents and families will go a long way with your patrons. If you have gendered restrooms, providing a changing area in both can make all parents feel comfortable in your space.
Make Sure It’s Safe
Creating a safe environment in your restroom, if you’re able to provide one, should be a high priority. There are many factors to consider when creating a safe and accommodating bathroom. Not only do you need to consider accident prevention, but also to make people feel comfortable. While unfortunate, in some places crime prevention should be a consideration.
Designing the bathroom with safety in mind comes with a few factors. Using non-slip flooring, or placing mats by water sources like sinks, can help to prevent slips and falls. Minimizing contact points with touchless soap dispensers, faucets, and toilets can help to prevent the spread of germs, such as E. coli.
Crime prevention through environmental design (or CPTED) is a safety strategy that takes a common sense approach on keeping your area safe. It relies on 3 major strategies:
- Natural Surveillance: Creating natural lines of sight that can deter wrongdoers (for example, a highly visible restroom entrance)
- Natural Access Control: Creating barriers to the space that can add perceived risk to poor behavior (for example, ensuring the restroom is well-lit)
- Territorial Reinforcement: Creating a sense of ownership over the space through physical design and developing a sphere of influence (for example, placing the restroom door in a visible and accessible public location)
By basing your design around these principles, you can create an area that is safer and feels welcoming to all people. Some basic tips based on CPTED would be having all-gender single-stall bathrooms, placing the restroom door in a visible place in your business, as well as providing ample lighting. You may also want to consider keeping your restroom locked and providing your customers with an access code or key upon request. This can serve as an additional step to keep your restrooms safer.
Do Regular Maintenance
Last but not least! Sometimes, going into a poorly maintained restroom can seem worse than not having a bathroom available. In 2022, a survey reported that 51% of Americans think that a poorly maintained restroom shows poor business management. That’s why it’s important to make sure your team is well-trained in proper bathroom cleanliness and keeping your facilities in good repair.
Training your staff (and yourself!) on proper restroom upkeep is the first step. Some states, like New York, provide in-depth manuals on public restroom cleaning. This can include what kind of chemicals to use, as well as how often to clean. Make sure everyone who could be tasked with cleaning the restroom knows what is required, and where to find the restocking supplies.
Clean restrooms are important an important service to society. By centering the conversation with your employees around this, you can transform the task of cleaning into something that they can take pride in, instead of it being a tedious duty. This approach can also cultivate a sense of ownership and responsibility for the space. Keeping a regular schedule is the best way to ensure your restroom is clean. Additionally, regularly cleaning your restrooms helps to keep everyone safer from slips, and everything fully stocked. One idea is to post your cleaning schedule inside the bathroom. Not only can this keep you and your staff accountable, but it also lets your patrons know that you’re taking care of the space they’re in and can make them feel more comfortable.
Providing safe, clean, accessible public restrooms can be an important responsibility your business undertakes. Having a public restroom is a legal obligation, but it doesn’t have to be a fruitless chore. With these tips in mind, you can create a restroom that reflects positively on your business and creates a welcoming environment for your customers.