Researcher Estimates the Hours Spent Folding Toilet Paper in Hotels

Researcher Estimates the Hours Spent Folding Toilet Paper in Hotels
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The Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology is a serious scientific publication. The official journal of the European Society for Environmental and Occupational Medicine (EOM), it focuses on "clinical and scientific aspects of occupational and environmental health." 

And Rickard Ljung is a serious scientific researcher. Based out of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm Sweden, one of the oldest, largest, and most prestigious medical universities on the world, Ljung has authored more than seventy papers, with serious titles like "Maternal smoking during pregnancy and the risk of childhood brain tumors: Results from a Swedish cohort study."

But both journal and researcher have taken a brief break from being completely serious this holiday season, publishing a study on toilet paper folding in hotels.

As many as ten million hotel bathrooms are cleaned each and every day, and in a significant portion, cleaning staff are required to fold the toilet paper roll, assuring guests that the bathroom is clean and ready to use. In more ritzy hotels, staff even leave behind elaborate, artistic designs. Ljung questions how necessary this task really is.

"Is it really defendable and appropriate that someone else has spent time on folding the toilet paper you are just about to use?" he writes.

Recognizing this wasted work, Ljung estimated how much time is spent folding toilet paper in hotels each and every year. Recruiting his two kids as co-authors (ages 11 and 13, based out of the respectable Stocksundsskolan School), Ljung clocked sixty attempts to fold a basic toilet paper design (shown below). The average folding time was 5.73 seconds.

Ljung then multiplied that time by an estimate of the number of hotel cleanings performed each day to approximate the number of hours hotel staff all over the world spend folding toilet paper each year. The range was 3.8 million to 14.2 million hours!

"In a hotel with yearly full coverage of 200 beds skipping folding the toilet paper corresponds to around 200 hours of time that could be spent elsewhere," Ljung says.

Ljung says his seemingly silly paper has a serious undertone.

"Should we really encourage useless work tasks?"

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