This question is on behalf of a colleague, Alice.

Alice's desk is situated right next to one of the toilets and, as you can imagine, it often gets pretty smelly where she works. This has been made worse by the fact that the other toilet upstairs has been blocked for a couple of days and so everyone in the company has been using the downstairs toilet to do their business (we are only a small company of 22 staff and so only have 2 toilets and the upstairs one has now been fixed).

Alice has brought up the smell with management on a couple of occasions and they have bought several air fresheners for the lobby and the toilet, however, they do not fully cover up the smell.

She has mentioned to a couple of other staff that although she loves every other aspect of the job, she is looking for a new job due to the smell she has to deal with every day. The 2 other customer service reps are also unhappy with the situation.

Is there anything else she can request that management does to resolve the issue?


The problem isn't really that her desk is too close to the toilets - more that the smell from the toilets seems to be at an unreasonable level.

The "clients" angle is the one I would take - stress to management that the smell is likely to give an extremely bad first impression to any client/potential client visiting the office (or indeed any other visitor).

From the sounds of it some air fresheners aren't going to cut it (possibly a case of management not being aware of the full extent of the problem) so I would suggest your colleague investigate the ventilation situation of these toilets (depending upon your locale there may be local H&S legislation specifying the requirements for this - there definitely is in the UK) and if it's inadequate/broken then take that to management when your colleague approaches them.

I realise that it's not really her responsibility to investigate these issues - but with the ultimate goal in mind of getting this resolved it may be worth doing as presenting management with "problem + solution" is likely to be much better received than just the problem itself.


Is there anything else she can request that management does to resolve the issue?


She can ask that her desk be moved to somewhere less smelly.


I realize redesign of the building is not really an option but that is just a poor design if a single door restroom leads directly to office space. They should be in a hallway or behind double doors. This is probably an older building.

Management should not need to be told a desk next to a restroom is not acceptable. They should do more than air freshener.

Management should look into a higher volume fan, spray before you go toilet spray, and an office layout that does not put a desk next to a restroom. It could be storage area and or copy machine. People would still need to put up with it but for short periods of time. Also a copy machine puts out on odor that would slightly mask the toilet.

As for Alice she needs to go to management and tell them this is still a serious problem for her as the air freshener is not enough.


This is an engineering problem. Suggestion should be made to management that the building owners be apprised that their toilets are emitting an unpleasant odour. If the company owns the building then the problem should go to maintenance.

My office is next to a toilet, the whole place could use it one after the other after a hard night on dodgy curry and I wouldn't know. The air is extracted out. If that broke down which it never has. I'd just close my door.


What kind of company puts any employee next to the toilet door. The fact they thought this was acceptable (even if it was temporary) shows exactly what type of company they are. I bet you anything the boss wasn't get put next to the toilets.

I'm sorry if this is harsh but it's time for both you and Alice to look for another job.

  • 1
    Or make an anonymous complaint to OSHA about not having adequate local exhaust ventilation. See osha.gov/Publications/3430indoor-air-quality-sm.pdf Please feel free to include this in your answer. I'd rather not have my name be associated with making anonymous complaints to OSHA. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 4 '20 at 13:36
  • @StephanBranczyk I don't know for sure that the OP is from the USA. What I'm getting at is that if the company has employees sat next to toilets they are a very poor company and I would leave before they start doing more crazy stuff like work on weekends for free ... etc. – Dave3of5 Feb 4 '20 at 16:19

Could it be that the office is too small for 22 employees, and her desk was placed there temporarily?

Answer: No employee should have their desk near the toilet (even if temporarily). If there is no other place (not enough space) to shift the desk, then shifting entire office to another building with bigger office is mandatory option for management/HR to consider.

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