Office Hack #20 — Slack’s Washroom Hack
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“No one needs to hear anyone else poop at work.”
- Anna Pickard, Editorial Director, Slack
There it is. A tidy, straight-to-the-point summary of an issue plaguing the office. Any office.
In fact, a quick Google search of “how to poop at work” yields a surprising number of articles with strategies, tips and sympathetic advice.
Slack is no exception to these private, painfully awkward shared-bathroom experiences, especially in its San Francisco office where staff more than doubled in a year.
Constructing more washrooms is not a realistic solution for resolving social discomfort between co-workers. So one of the Slack employees came up with a simpler plan: pipe music into the lavatories. However, it turned out this simpler plan wasn’t actually that simple.
Slack’s San Fran office has a fancy sound system, however, if music was to play in the washrooms, it would also have to play in the cafeteria, due to how it was configured. This was a problem.
Slack has ‘library rules’ which means quiet is required around work stations. Cafeteria music would most certainly bleed into work areas.
The solution? Install digital radios, separate from the sound system, only in the washrooms…
…and fix them to a cool, radio station to ensure a broad range of music gets played.
“The station is called FIP. It’s a French radio station who tend to play music by theme, rather than by genre, so they’ll play a Beastie Boys track, followed by the jazz track that the sample was lifted from, and then onto something else with the same kind of beat or the same kind of musicians… They have an interesting thread. A lot of world music and a lot of jazz and because they’re French, just a lot of really random stuff as well. When they are playing music, it’s a really interesting combination so no one feels like they’re not being represented or that someone else’s taste is completely dominating. When they stop, which they only do occasionally and read the news or something, it’s in French so you feel really cultured.” Anna Pickard, Editorial Director, Slack
Just a bit of music, isolated to the washrooms at Slack, and suddenly the entire experience shifts.
“Human beings have certain functions they need to fulfill. It hasn’t changed the way that those functions are undertaken, it does, however, often you end up getting into a conversation with people, having fulfilled that necessary function, while washing your hands, which we always do at Slack, or just having a conversation about what it is you’ve listened to. Because we have the same music going in the men’s and the women’s bathrooms, if you come out of the bathroom at the same time, you quite often say, “That was a great track. Did you hear that? It was amazing.” ” Anna Pickard, Editorial Director, Slack
A simple solution yes, but one that has had surprising effect at Slack. According to Pickard, staff now leave the washrooms feeling lighter and brighter, smiling about hearing disparate types of music, rather than one another.
She says often people will return to their desks and to look up a song they just heard in the loo.
How to hack it
If you too are looking to drown out bathroom noises and perk up the work washroom experience, here’s how to do it.
According to Pickard, it’s important the type of music chosen is not too aggro; heavy metal, for example, might not set the right atmosphere. Talk radio is also not a good choice. Instead, try to find music that isn’t too, umm.. frantic.
Furthermore, the volume should sit around medium, or 5 out of 10. Too quiet defeats the whole purpose of music in the washroom. Too loud would be, well, it’s not a club.
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