Hello. We have a team member that takes her tablet into the bathroom and is away from her desk for 30 minutes or longer. This is not just a once a day trip to the bathroom; this happens many times during a day.
I feel that her time away ‘reading’ is effecting the other team members because they have to pick up her slack. How do we approach her? Can we say she isn’t allowed to take her tablet or phone into the bathroom? Can we issue a written disciplinary warning? Can we make her clock out for bathroom breaks longer than 5-10 minutes? What is the allowed bathroom break time? Her work is impacted by this. Please help, I don’t know what to do.
First, let’s make a few assumptions:
- There is no medical reason for this employee to visit the restroom frequently and for 30 minutes or longer.
- The employee is really gone for 30+ minutes several times a day.
- The employee’s bathroom breaks are negatively impacting their performance.
The focus of this problem should not be on the bathroom breaks. It should be on the work and the employee’s performance. The employee’s supervisor should ask them self, “Does the employee get their work done?” Yes, I agree, it might look weird that an employee takes a lot of very long bathroom breaks. But the employee could argue it’s no different than the employee who takes a lot of smoke breaks.
If the employee isn’t getting their work completed, have a conversation with them about the work that isn’t getting done. I wrote a post a while ago about having a performance conversation with an employee. You can check it out here. Address the work that isn’t being completed and the impact it has on the team – not how many bio breaks the employee is taking.
On the other hand, if the employee is getting their work done in a satisfactory manner…does it matter that they are taking bathroom breaks? I once worked with an employee whose kids called her all the time. It was a wonder they could put their socks on in the morning without her. But she got all her work done. And it was quality work. This does raise the question if an employee can take multiple, extended bathroom breaks and still get their work completed satisfactorily, do they have enough work in the first place? Are they being fully utilized? That’s something for the business to decide.
Dealing with the employee’s performance issue keeps the company from creating extra policies and then being responsible for policing them. Policies should not be created for small exceptions to a rule. Whatever policy the company would create for this employee and their bathroom visitation schedule, everyone in the company would have to abide by. That’s not the goal.
Companies need to focus on the work and getting it done. Not controlling the bodily functions of employees. Having a conversation with an employee about what happens in a bathroom stall isn’t the conversation you want to have. Talk to the employee about their performance.1