Prettpal Somel, UK Marketing Executive at Ambius explores why scent is such a powerful tool in the workplace, why businesses tend to overlook scent because we rely so much on what we see and hear, and the importance of scent in improving employee and customer experience, and mood/productivity
Our sense of smell is incredibly powerful. Even if we can’t determine a scent, it can trigger strong memories. Research has shown a huge 75% of emotions are generated by smell, yet for many businesses, scenting is often overlooked.
British workers spend more time at their desk or workstation (6.8 hours) than in bed (6.4 hours), and 40% spend a maximum of just 15 minutes outside per day. Employers would be wise to explore ways to create a workplace that facilitates better health and wellbeing – scent being a powerful tool to achieve this.
Why is scent so powerful?
Humans can distinguish one trillion different scent combinations. Even if we can’t pinpoint what the smell is, we have the ability to differentiate. This means we are highly adept at recognising a smell’s association, which is often deeply rooted in memory and emotion. Incredibly, no two people experience a scent in the same way – making this sense a very personal one.
Scent is, however, often overlooked by brands and businesses – perhaps because we rely so much on what we see and hear in our decision-making process. Yet the right smell can generate good impressions with customers, clients, prospects and, perhaps more importantly, help make staff happier, more alert and more productive. The good news is that making it part of your office environment can be far easier than you may think.
Unpleasant odours = unpleasant experience
I’m sure most people can recall a moment where a strong smell has stopped them in their tracks and made them cover their nose. In an office environment, a bad smell can quickly become overpowering and even something as simple as an employee’s lunch could have a profound effect on their colleagues and their motivation levels at work. Our research found that three in five employees eat lunch at their desk three or more times a week. The main reasons they gave for this included being too busy to take a lunch break or wanting to catch up on the news and personal administration while eating. Whatever the reason, this is likely to fill many work environments with the aroma of food… good and bad.
In addition, more than half of office workers find it anti-social when a colleague eats strong smelling food at their desk. Perhaps more importantly, a third find it hard to work as a result. Of course, many don’t realise the unfavourable effect their lunch choices could have on co-workers who sit near them, so it’s important to encourage office etiquette to create a hygienic and pleasant-smelling environment, and hopefully happier colleagues as a result.
According to a study by Rachel S. Herz, assistant professor of psychology at Brown University, people who work in the presence of pleasant-smelling air report higher self-efficacy, set higher goals and are more likely to employ efficient work strategies than participants who work in a no-odour condition.
Alongside good etiquette, scenting products can help to control and minimise smells that come from malodour-producing foods and other objects. One of the simplest and quickest options is installing air fresheners that automatically dispense fragrance to neutralise odours and create a pleasant-smelling environment. An air purifier can also help to eradicate any airborne bacteria and viruses in the office, including the flu virus, E coli, Salmonella, Streptococcus and Rhinovirus.
One thing to be mindful of when it comes to air fresheners is that the scent isn’t overpowering. Two fifths of British office workers said they found an overwhelming smell of perfume or aftershave in the office just as unpleasant as a bad smell. It’s all about striking the balance and guaranteeing the diffusion of delicate, appealing smells.
The smell of success
Removing bad aromas is one battle, but if you’re keen to channel productivity with the scents you inject into the office, there are a number which have been identified to increase staff productivity:
- Rosemary – encourages clear thinking, improves memory and energises the mind
- Citrus – grapefruit can help to fight mental exhaustion, lemon is uplifting, orange can ease stress and bergamot oil can even be used to help treat depression
- Lavender – reduces stress and anxiety
- Peppermint – is seen as energising and refreshing, and can aid concentration and stimulate the mind
- Cinnamon – helps to fight mental fatigue and improve concentration
Of course, it’s not as simple as finding an air freshener which emits these scents and placing them around the office. What many employers require is a bespoke scent which will enhance employee experience, based on business priorities. This is where consulting premium scenting experts can help.
Unlike most commercial air fresheners, Premium Scenting behaves like a vapour and doesn’t fall to the floor after emission, remaining in the air for up to four hours. Because the diffusion of the scenting particles is controlled, the scenting of the space is 100% uniform and does not leave wet deposits on surfaces.
Any reputable company offering a Premium Scenting service will visit your office to complete a site survey and develop a fragrance that works for you. Their team will then install equipment and return on a regular basis to replace and refresh the fragrance as and when needed.
The office is a complex environment, from lighting and decor, to desk layout and music – all of which can impact workplace productivity. We’d encourage employers to see Premium Scenting as an integral part of this picture – a simple step which can uplift employees’ mood and engage performance, without them even necessarily realising it.
 C. Bushdid, M. O. Magnasco, L. B. Vosshall, A. Keller. Humans Can Discriminate More than 1 Trillion Olfactory Stimuli. Science, March 2014