Beijing-based technology company Kuaishou recently sparked outrage on Chinese social media after videos of digital timers over employee toilet stalls went viral online.
The photos showed digital timers hanging over each cubicle and small sensors installed on the cubicle doors to trigger the timers. Chinese social media users slammed the company for monitoring and timing its office workers’ time in the toilet to increase productivity and its profits, with some calling the practice a breach of human rights and privacy. Some on the other hand defended the company, saying that some employees abused bathroom breaks, using it as an opportunity to waste time on their phones.
Online feedback was generally negative, and eventually Kuaishou came out with an explanation to try and calm spirits. in an official press release, the online video-sharing platform claimed that the timers weren’t meant to limit employees’ toilet usage, but rather a solution to a “serious” toilet shortage problem.
The Kuaishou office building reportedly suffers from a shortage of restrooms, and because of its layout, new facilities cannot be constructed. The company says it decided to install the the timers, which also work as counters, to see how many people used a cubicle and for how long, in order to determine how many portable toilets needed to be installed to accommodate its staff.
Although the explanation does make some sense, many social media users were not convinced, with some claiming that the company was only interested in increasing its profits by any means necessary.
Employee toilet use monitoring is not unheard of in China. Hong Kong-based Apple Daily reports that one company in Shanghai limits employees’ toilet use to a total of 10 minutes each day, while others monitor how much time employees spend in the bathroom.