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April 2017

Can smell really affect workplace productivity?

Written by Nicole Horne
Workplace Hygiene

Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that office space can have on employee productivity. From layout to lighting and office plants, a number of factors have been found to have a dramatic effect on our performance in the workplace.

New studies are now also linking smell to how well we work:

  • Smells impact our mood and how we behave: Rachel Herz, an assistant professor of psychology at Brown University in the USA explained that odours can have a dramatic impact on our mood which naturally, can affect how we think and act. Mood has been shown to influence creativity because when we’re in a positive frame of mind, we exhibit higher levels of creatively compared to our peers who are in a bad mood. When people were exposed to an odour they liked, creative problem solving was found to be better than it was when they were exposed to an unpleasant odour.
  • Smell impacts productivity and confidence levels: In one particular study, employees who worked in the presence of a pleasant smelling air freshener reported higher levels of self-belief, set higher goals for themselves and were more likely to employ efficient work strategies compared to participants who worked in conditions where they weren’t exposed to any odours.
  • Improved performance: Pleasant odours have also been found to enhance vigilance during tedious tasks as well as improve performance on anagram and word completion tests. On the other hand, participants who were subjected to bad odours struggled to make judgement calls and had a lower tolerance for frustration.
  • Enhanced alertness: A Japanese study found that specific scents can increase alertness which in turn, results in higher productivity rates. When lemon oil was diffused through an office building, performance amongst data entry operators increased by 54%.
  • Better focus: Research has shown that scents can be used to improve concentration levels and ward off mid-afternoon brain fog.
  • Improved social behaviours: Unbelievably, pleasant odours are also more likely to improve our social behaviours which are of course a bonus when we’re working in an office full of people. Studies have revealed that when exposed to the scent of baking cookies or roasting coffee, we’re more inclined to help a stranger compared to when we’re not exposed to any scent at all.

Which scents increase productivity?

If you’re looking to increase staff productivity, there are a number of scents which can help you to achieve this:

  • 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 energising and refreshing and can aid concentration and stimulate the mind.\
  • Cinnamon can help to fight mental fatigue and improve concentration.

Want more information about the power of scent, get the infographic on the power of scent emailed to you now.

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Premium Air Scenting from Initial is a tried and tested way of providing pleasant odours in any workspace. It’s an innovative scenting system which fragrances the air and provides air scents that last longer and scent far larger areas than the average aerosol product.

More information on Premium Air Scenting can be found on our website or if you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Nicole Horne

Nicole Horne

Nicole is a Digital Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial Hygiene in Johannesburg. A self-proclaimed germaphobe, her love for hygienic environments and curiosity of all things “beneath the surface” fuels her enthusiasm for writing about the impact of germs in the workplace. She is passionate about creating awareness and sharing her knowledge on the impact of good hygiene practices. Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates on the the good, the bad and the germy.

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