Does odour affect our work performance?

In a survey commissioned by Initial, it was confirmed that after general cleanliness, smell was the biggest factor that people noticed after entering a public toilet, and of these over 90% have encountered unpleasant odours. These bad smells create strong impressions of businesses as odours affect people’s mood, work performance and behaviour in a variety of ways.

“There have been many scientific studies on how smells and odours affect us as human beings,” says Dumisani Simelane, Sales and Marketing Director for Rentokil Initial Sub-Saharan Africa. “Smell has a direct impact on our mood, work performance and behaviours as smell is typically associated with some event in our past.”

A good example is that of the antiseptic smell within hospitals that can create anxiety. Similarly, the smells within toilets, especially public toilets can elicit a powerful response. Positive smell creates a good mood, which in turn leads to better creativity, morale, mood and generally a more productive workplace overall.

One of the factors that can create an ambient foul odour and a leading contributor to inferior indoor air quality is the workplace bathroom.

It is important for business to understand the cause of a foul-smelling office bathroom, adds Simelane. Commonly, five factors cause malodour. These include high moisture and temperature levels, the perfect storm for bacteria and germs, urine, as bacteria uses urine as a food source, leaking and blocked pipes, cleaning supplies and improper cleaning.

Some easy solutions can be implemented to mitigate these issues. Proper ventilation and open windows or extractors will assist with high moisture content, as will education regarding importance of proper bathroom etiquette. Staff should also report any blocked or leaking pipes and ensure proper management of feminine hygiene products and waste bins, and regular engagement with the cleaning staff on proper and thorough bathroom cleaning procedures all make a difference. In general, a holistic approach must be taken to prevent bad smelling bathrooms.

There is a growing body of research that suggests that workplace scent, which can enhance moods by as much as 50%, should be managed just like other factors that impact our lives at the office – air quality, temperature, lighting and personal space. Pleasant olfactory experiences improve employee productivity, performance, confidence levels and social behaviours.

“After spending a substantial amount at home due to the pandemic and government regulations, it has certainly come as a shock to many returning to office spaces as many have been empty for so long,” concludes Simelane. “Readjusting to the close proximity of other people, and all the included social aspects thereof, in confined environments need to be managed correctly.”

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