Tuesday, 31 May 2011

We have the techology

I work in a small building which has been divided in half. One half houses our company's IT department while the other half is a separate company altogether. The two halves are joined through a small hallway leading to, of all places, the washrooms.

Now, the numbers involved are a little rough, but based on the relative sizes of the two halves and the number of employees working on our side, I would estimate the total number of people working in this building at around 40. The men's washroom has one stall and one urinal, the women's, I assume has two stalls and at times I don't feel that is enough. Unfortuantely, those times are usually after a bran muffin and a couple glasses of iced tea, times when you don't want to stand in line.

My days are usually pretty busy and I don't want to waste time standing around in a tiny bathroom waiting for the guy(s) in front of me to finish. Instead I head back to my desk and continue working, getting up on occasion to check if the coast is clear. Some days this means several trips. That's when I started thinking of alternatives:

#1: Now serving...
We post a number dispenser outside the bathroom and several of the 'Now serving' LED signs at key locations. The previous individual is responsible for advancing the number once they have finished washing their hands and exited the room. Each person would then be resonsible for keeping a watch out for their number.

#2: Virtual queue
Utilizing one of our servers we create a small application which allows those of us in need of the facilities to add our name to a virutal queue. We then take one of the old laptops that is destined for the eco-centre  and attach it to the wall outside the washroom. As above, the previous individual is responsbile for clicking on a button which triggers the application notifying the next person in the lineup. Notifications could be sent through email or possibly...

#3: Instant messaging
We already have an instant message application installed on all our computers, so why not use it? Somebody creates a chat room called "Waiting for the bathroom" or something much more clever. Everyone who needs to can log into the chat and see who, if anyone is on line for the throne. Again, the laptop mounted outside the washroom would allow instant notification that the seat is free instead of having to wait for the person to get back to their desk.

#4: Unnecessarily complex
Similar to #2, this option would require an application on a server which keeps track of people that have requested to use the facilities. To make sure each individual gets there fair shake we install an electronic lock on the stall door with a code that is generated randomly each time a person leaves. The next person in line is then emailed the new code ensuring that they and only they will be able to access the stall. If the proper code is not input within a reasonable amoung of time the program assumes that the individual has given up and/or found an alternative and emails the next person in line.

Now that I think about it, we could probably cut the computers out and just use the phone system. Imagine getting a phone call giving you permission to go to the washroom.

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