Why multi-tasking on the toilet is a horrible idea

Smartphones make us think we can multi-task on the toilet - but we’re making two horrible mistakes

An anonymous woman is using her smartphone while busy in the toilet

More than three quarters of people take their mobile phone into the toilet with them - and continue to work from the throne. Some 58% have sent an email to their boss or a client from the toilet, while one in twenty joined a conference call. A study, by Voucherbox.co.uk found that 13% of people were proud of their ability to multi-task on the toilet. However, we may not be as clever as we think.

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The first issue is one of hygiene. We are almost permanently attached to our mobile phones nowadays. We use them when we are eating lunch, or in between crisps when we're snacking. You have to ask yourself whether you want to be doing this when you know your phone has been in the bathroom.

A study last year by Japanese mobile company NIT found that the average smartphone had five times more germs on its screen than the average toilet seat. So there's a very real risk you are exposing yourself to the kinds of germs that can cause nasty stomach upsets. It's not exactly a piece of clever multi-tasking when you're simultaneously replying to a work email and making yourself unwell.

Gross hygiene matters aside, the practice isn't doing your career much good either.


A survey a couple of years ago by BUPA found that 28% of people don't take a minute to themselves at all during the working day. They work through a coffee break, they grab lunch at their desk, and if this new study is anything to go by, they don't even pop to the toilet for two minutes without feeling the need to keep working.

The BUPA study found that 43% of people claimed to be simply too busy to stop. However, 40% of people said that failing to take a break hampered their productivity and 52% of people said it put them in a bad mood. Patrick Watt, corporate director at BUPA, said: "Taking a proper break helps employees to stay alert, focused, and performing at their peak."

Taking a break can often give you space from a project, to enable you to see things more clearly. A survey a few years ago by National Express found that more than two thirds of people said they had their best ideas when they were on the toilet. There's often a good reason why - there's no pressure to be focusing on work, so your mind is allowed to roam, and you have the space to think more creatively about work issues.

Famously Archimedes had his breakthrough in the bath, while Newton was sitting under an apple tree. Neither were hunched over their desk, or answering an email on the toilet.

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