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What’s That Smell? Good and Bad Office Smells

January 18, 2019 / by Tommy Twardowski

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When you work in an office, you share more than a common employer. You share the air you breathe. Sometimes that may leave you wishing you had a window you could open up to get rid of the unpleasant smells that inevitably occur in any shared space. We’ve put together some ideas for dealing with offensive office odors – and some interesting information about how you can use scent to boost your employees’ productivity and moods and create a more pleasant work environment.

Dealing with Workplace Odors

Sometimes the source of office odors are employees – from body odor, heating up their lunches in the break room, or wearing excess cologne or perfume. Other times, odors result from chemicals or equipment used in the office. Regardless of where they come from, unpleasant odors are distracting and can even lead to illness.

Some companies have implemented policies to minimize offensive odors. L.L. Bean, for example, has a workplace scents policy that discourages employees to wear cologne and perfume. Others companies have addressed odors by:

  • Incorporating better ventilation systems into their workplace design
  • Relocating employee workspaces away from odor sources like kitchens or areas where chemicals are used
  • Changing processes and formulas to minimize manufacturing or cleaning odors.

Use Scent to Your Advantage in the Workplace

According to an article in Scientific American, people who work in the presence of a pleasant smelling air freshener report higher self-efficacy, set higher goals and are more likely to employ efficient work strategies than participants who worked in an odor-free environment. Employees surrounded by pleasant ambient scents were also found to be more alert during tedious tasks and to perform better on challenging tests. On the other hand, the article noted, people who work in environments filled with unpleasant smells experience an impaired sense of judgment and more frustration.

7 examples of mind-stimulating scents that could be beneficial in the work environment by boosting productivity and creativity include:

  1. Basil
  2. Cardamom
  3. Cinnamon
  4. Clove
  5. Ginger
  6. Peppermint
  7. Sage

5 scents shown to encourage relaxation and stress-reduction include:

  1. Bergamot
  2. Lavender
  3. Rose
  4. Sandalwood
  5. Ylang-ylang

Using scent to improve the work environment and boost mood isn’t new. Nearly a decade ago, Vanderbilt University Medical Center launched a pilot study to evaluate the benefits of aromatherapy in its fast-paced emergency department. The university placed five essential oil diffusers in common areas like nurse workstations and triage areas. Before the pilot, 41% of those surveyed reported experiencing work-related stress. After the pilot, that number dropped to 3%. In all, 84% of employees said the oil diffusers created a more positive work environment.

In addition to using oil diffusers to boost mood and productivity, employers can also incorporate a scent dispersal system into their overall office design. There are commercial-grade air fresheners available as well as HVAC air-freshener systems to pump scent throughout an entire office.

An Opportunity to be Proactive

If you’ll be planning an office remodel or build in the future, don’t underestimate the impact of scent on your employees. In any office design, there are opportunities to minimize the impact of odors on employees, and to incorporate technologies that enhance the work environment by infusing the air with a pleasing, productivity- and mood-boosting scent.

Topics: Office Design, Office Etiquette, Facility Managers

About The Author

Tommy Twardowski

Tommy Twardowski

Tommy began his career in the office furniture installation business in 1978 and started his full-time career in 1981 with Houston Installation Services. Starting as a furniture installer, he developed a passion for the process of installation and learned to install all major manufacturers’ lines.