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564Re: Shower at workplace

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  • Whitney Turner
    Feb 18, 2000
    • 0 Attachment
      Here's a true story - the names have been changed to annoy the inquisitive.

      Re: Ped/Bike Research's cost comparison of Boca showers
      Thu, 35 Jan 1900 25:19:66 -0800
      SuperAdvocate <SA@...>
      Bike Friendly Guy <GovtBoy@...>

      Perhaps the relevant number to consider is the difference in cost between
      installing a shower and installing a toilet. Let's face it - the number of
      toilets required in a facility is only loosely related to the number of
      people in the building. (When was the last time you had to wait for a
      toilet where you work?) Perhaps developers should be allowed to substitute
      one shower for one toilet in facilities over a certain size?

      My employer (who shall remain a nameless cellular phone manufacturer
      headquartered near Chicago) recently installed showers and lockers in the
      facility in which I work, and the entire process reminded me of the cartoon
      showing the process by which a swing is installed on a tree branch. You
      know the one:
      As designed - wooden swing hanging by ropes from the tree branch
      As sold - triple-decker wooden swing seat (sit on top board and the other
      two are useless)
      As installed - wooden swing with one rope tied to a branch on the left of
      the trunk, one tied on the right
      As retrofitted by field engineering - trunk of tree is cut out so that
      swing can move freely; top of tree is supported by wooden crutches left
      and right
      What the kids really wanted - old tire swinging on a single rope from a branch.

      Anyway, the process at our facility went a little like this:
      Phase One - Someone (an _extremely_ nameless cycling advocate who works at
      our facility) proposes showers and lockers for joggers, cyclists, Ultimate
      Frisbee fans, softball teams, etc. (We have sports fields at our
      facility.) A sympathetic Human Resources associate starts looking at the
      different bathrooms to locate a suitable one, and starts working with
      Facilities to work up a cost estimate. Research determines that several
      other facilities of nameless manufacturer (even in such inhospitable
      terrain and climates as (gasp!) Massachusetts and Arizona) have showers;
      one other facility (in Florida or Illinois - I forget) has a shower which
      is currently being used as a storage closet.

      Phase Two - Somehow, one shower per gender is deemed inadequate; we must
      have four, and locker space to go with it. Cost estimate rises to
      approximately $80,000 ($10K per stall); advocates blanch a little, but the
      project looks like it will get funded, so shut up and enjoy the ride. At
      the last moment, the selected restrooms are removed entirely in order to
      make way for production space expansion. (I believe the loss of toilets
      was compensated for elsewhere.)

      Phase Three - We now need a Wellness Facility. HR advocate has changed
      from full-time HR to half-time Wellness Coordinator. Cost has risen to
      $200,000 to completely renovate a corner of the building. Nameless
      advocates begin to mutter about buying a house in the neighborhood (hey, we
      could even have barbecues and pool parties for that price!) and wonder if
      there will ever be a facility in our lifetime.

      Phase Four - The Wellness Facility now includes Health Services and a Day
      Care center. Cost is over a million dollars (estimated), but it's rolled
      into a major facilities expansion, so adding the wellness part of the
      expansion looks like rounding error on the total project. There are four
      showers per gender, with 20 half-length lockers or so, weight training
      room, aerobics room, additional (car) parking, professional staff, and
      organized classes (including a "spinning" class). Construction of the
      entire expansion is a two-year ordeal. When completed, senior management
      is proud of the wellness facility, noting that the day care and wellness
      center contribute to company image as a "premier employer."

      Phase Five - Business group of at least one nameless advocate is scheduled
      to be transferred out of building to leased building over five miles away.
      Initial floor plans for leased building do not show any shower facilities.
      Non-cyclists in charge of floor plans suggest to senior management that at
      times (such as during recent Y2K non-crisis) it is useful to have showers
      in the facility. Rumor has it that floor plan of leased building now has

      The moral of the story: never give up. This project took more than five
      years, and really only got going as part of a larger project. Obviously,
      an ordinance such as the one Boca is considering would make showers
      automatic once the expansion was funded, though my progressive employer
      funded the wellness center voluntarily.

      Moral number two: If you think you can do it alone, seek professional help
      (pun intended). Part-time advocates are never a substitute for full-time
      advocates. My employer was forward-thinking enough to fund a part-time
      position in HR to work on general "wellness" issues, of which this project
      was a part. The wellness coordinator's influence far outweighed that of
      the informal advocates, in part because management felt the coordinator was
      easier to work with, took a more balanced view, was more open to management
      guidance, you choose your expression here, etc., unlike those wild-eyed
      "bike fanatics" who just would not shut up....

      Moral number three: The first shower is the hardest one. I will never
      know, but I like to believe that the showers rumored to be in the leased
      facility were put there in part because management knew that the showers in
      the main facility were important to at least some employees. The use of
      the wellness facility, now that it's in, is visible to all. (Note that
      lack of use would be equally visible!)

      I also think the process was easier for my employer because they own the
      building; the Boca ordinance will provide an appropriate incentive for
      leased office space as well. (I think it would be difficult for landlords
      or tenants to negotiate this kind of facility upgrade on their own - the
      landlord can't tell whether his or her tenants will value the improvement,
      and an enthusiastic tenant may have trouble convincing the landlord that
      future tenants will value it as well.)

      In addition, I think the process at my employer shows that cost is not
      always the issue; many times, the managers are considering showers in a
      larger context of overall employee health or ability to recruit top
      employees. When you consider that building costs for medium-quality office
      space runs about $100/square foot, a $1.2M expansion (of 12,500 square
      feet) makes even a $40,000 shower facility look relatively minor. An
      ordinance such as Boca's will make the cost issue more or less disappear -
      you don't hear people complaining about how many toilets they had to put
      in, how they had to spend extra to meet the HVAC code, etc. - but if the
      facility isn't used, people will consider the showers wasted space.
      (Remember the shower used as a closet that I mentioned above.)

      Finally, such an ordinance may discourage landlords from considering
      expansions if the cost of all the required improvements is too high. In my
      opinion, showers are an investment worth making, but not all landlords
      would agree with me, as I'm sure we will hear when the Boca ordinance is

      Fort Lauderdale, Florida

      Every time I see an adult on a bicycle,
      I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
      --H.G. Wells
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