No conversation about productivity is complete without discussion of poop and periods.
Yes. We’re really going to talk about this.
This topic is at the edge of my comfort zone, which is exactly why I’m writing about it.
The New York Times has a series of articles about how we interact in the workplace. One of those articles is about pooping. The authors of the article report on research showing that many people, especially women, will go to great lengths to avoid pooping at work, including leaving the office building to take care of business somewhere else.
Years ago, a friend revealed that she would wait all day until she got home.
Poop shame is real, according to the article. The authors focus on the gender issue here — poop shame disproportionately affects women — I care less about the gender effect (for now) and more about the impact on productivity.
The authors describe several ways we deal with pooping in the workplace, from the “flush hush” to the “poop dupe” to looking for an empty restroom, to holding it in all day.
The comments to the article, always a source for insight and illumination, reveal our discomfort with pooping in public restrooms. This shame takes hold early. If you’ve ever observed a toddler who is potty training, notice how once they are a certain age, even if pooping in a diaper, they try to go off somewhere private to squat and poop.
Maybe it’s because of how we speak about it — when we speak about it. Poop is gross, smelly, stinky, messy. Of course, not pooping has the potential to be messier and far more damaging in the long term.
In the Times’ Work Friend column this week, the author answers a question from a startup founder who wonders whether he must supply tampons in the women’s restroom in addition to the beer kegs and snacks he provides in the communal kitchen.
The columnist calls him to task and sets him straight on “needs” vs “nice to have.” (To avoid any doubts: tampons = needs. Kegs and snack bars = nice to have.)
It’s 2019. Do women still need to stealthily go from cubicle to cubicle asking colleagues if anyone has a spare tampon?
The Impact on Productivity
Clearly, we do not like to talk about bodily functions. This creates an environment ripe for growing body shame, even around the most basic of human mechanics.
Everyone poops. All women get their period. We need to get over it and be willing to talk about it.
Here are three ways poop and periods impact your productivity.
The number one condition for the nervous system is to appreciates that the body is safe. The nervous system seeks safety first. Until it feels safe, it cannot allow the mind to focus on less urgent things like work.
When you hold your poop, or race around looking for an empty bathroom, or discover your period started and you don’t have a tampon, the nervous system goes into distress.
Distress = Body is unsafe = you’re not able to dial-in your focus on your work.
A few years ago, I took a 50-hour advanced yoga teacher training on Energy and the Subtle Body. The very first lesson we learned was that a teacher should go to the bathroom before starting class.
Why? Everything is energy. When you’re holding the urge to pee or poop, you aren’t present to your teaching. You can’t hold space for your students.
The same applies no matter what field you work in. How much energy can you give your work when you’re expending energy to contain your excretion?
(3) Release and Flow
The body has natural functions. Excretion is one of them. When we block our natural processes, we experience dis-ease. The NY Times article on poop in the workplace noted that for women, the effects show up in higher rates of issues like Irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.
Again, everything is energy. To create space for your best work, you must be willing to release what no longer serves you. This includes — actually, it starts with — your internal waste. The more you can release here with ease, the easier it will be to release other things that no longer serve you.
If you’re holding back in your body, you’re holding back in your work.
When you find flow in your bodily functions, you’ll find flow in your work.
We Are All Human
We are talking here about basic biological functions; yet we harbor so much shame around them.
The more we can acknowledge we are all human, and that these bodily functions are simply a part of life, the easier it will be to release the shame and create space for our best work.