Norwegian Company Sounds Alarm for Too-Long Bathroom Breaks

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Employees at DNB, a financial services firm in Norway, are outraged by a recent policy that monitors how long workers are in the restroom, the Telegraph reports.

DNB Liv, the life-insurance arm of the company, allows only a total of eight minutes per day for bathroom trips, cigarette breaks, personal phone calls and other work-break activities. If an employee is away from the desk for more than the allotted time, a surveillance system triggers an alarm and alerts managers with flashing lights.

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Norwegian privacy regulator Datatilsynet called the new policy “a major violation of privacy,” and wrote DNB in a statement: “Each individual worker has different needs and these kinds of strict controls deprive the employees of all freedoms over the course of their working day.”

The company defended its practices and said the goal is to ensure the center is properly staffed and employees are available to answer customer phone calls, according to Norwegian newspaper The Local. DNB Liv’s administrative director, Tom Rathke, told a local newspaper the eight-minute time frame was an exaggeration. “What actually happens when we measure is that we set aside eight percent of the scheduled time for ‘rest and relaxation,’” he said. The firm did admit some managers use surveillance results to measure individual performance.

Norway’s chief workplace ombudsman Bjorn Erik Thon told the Telegraph this isn’t the first complaint of poor work environments. “We receive many complaints about monitoring in the workplace, which is becoming a growing problem as it is so often being used for something other than what it was originally intended for,” he said.

Last year a Norwegian company was flagged for forcing its female employees to wear a red bracelet when they were menstruating to indicate a need for more bathroom time. “Toilet codes relating to menstrual cycles are clear violations of privacy and is very insulting to the people concerned,” Thon said.

Other bizarre bathroom policies include a company “visitor’s book” to sign in and out for a trip to the toilet as well as an electronic key card to keep track of time in the washroom. “I hope and believe that this is not representative of the Norwegian working life in general,” Thon said.

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