How Does Scent Affect the Workplace?  

Have you ever noticed how a pleasant scent can instantly uplift your mood and make you feel more focused? When we are surrounded by pleasant smells, our brain releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. 

According to research by Scientific American, positive moods are associated with increased productivity, performance, and prosocial behavior, while negative moods tend to reduce prosocial behavior. In terms of creativity, individuals in positive moods generally show higher levels of creativity compared to those in negative moods. So, what does that have to do with scent? And how do scents affect work performance?

As it turns out, the psychological impact of scents can have a powerful influence on how we feel and act, which is why olfactory design is gaining traction in places like the workplaces (including at-home offices) and classrooms. Given that certain pleasant scents have been known to enhance productivity and wellbeing, the use of scents in the workplace should not be overlooked. 

Introducing a pleasant scent to your environment can assist with the following: 

  1. Reducing Stress 
  2. Increasing Work Performance 
  3. Enhancing Creativity 
  4. Keeping the Environment Clean 
  5. Improving Employee Retention 
  6. Improving Brand Image 

Effects of Scent on Cognition, Creativity, and Behavior 

Pleasant ambient odors enhance prosocial behavior and productivity, increase focus during tedious tasks, and improve performance on cognitive tests. Participants who worked in the presence of pleasant-smelling air fresheners reported higher self-efficacy, set higher goals, and were more likely to employ efficient work strategies compared to those who worked in odorless environments. In addition, pleasant odors are shown to enhance creativity and improve creative problem-solving ability. 

Pleasant smells have a calming effect on the nervous system, reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation, which is particularly beneficial in a high-pressure, high-stress work environment. Introducing pleasant scents into an office, school, or place of business can help create a more soothing atmosphere, making employees and students feel calmer and more at ease.  

In contrast, participants in studies involving malodors reported negative effects on behavior, reducing subjective judgments, creativity levels, and tolerance for frustration.  

The Impact of Scents on Sanitation   

Flowers growing outside

Maintaining a pristine workplace, business, or school is an obvious crucial component in overall happiness in employees, customers, and students. A tidy and well-organized environment fosters a professional and hospitable ambiance that benefits everyone by demonstrating you care about the conditions of your workplace or school. As a result, it cultivates an efficient and productive work environment. And scent factors into that.  

The importance of particular fragrances cannot be understated in cultivating an atmosphere that is clean, pleasant, and fosters success and productivity. Specific scents can heighten one’s awareness of cleanliness and sanitation, encouraging individuals in the workplace or school to take greater care in maintaining a hygienic and organized environment.  

Scents such as eucalyptus and lavender, for example, improve respiratory health. These scents are particularly helpful for people who suffer from allergies or respiratory conditions as they help to clear congestion and promote easier breathing, resulting in a more comfortable environment.  

Scents such as citrus or mint can improve your mood while energizing and increasing mental clarity, which is especially beneficial on long workdays and schooldays or during periods requiring intense focus. 

On the flipside, offensive and unpleasant odors make it harder to focus. Smells interact directly with the limbic system (which is responsible for our stress response), and bad smells can set off our fight-or-flight instinct to escape that environment immediately. Think about a smelly bathroom or a breakroom. The immediate reaction is repulsion, discomfort, unhappiness, and an immediate desire to leave.  

Unpleasant scents diminish focus and productivity, create a negative mood, and ultimately lead to decreased happiness, health, and sanitation overall. This, in turn, also affects employee retention.  

Want to retain your employees and boost their productivity? Or keep your students engaged? Providing them with a nice-smelling environment helps.  

Tips For Incorporating Scent into Your Office Space 

Two halves of a lemon

According to a study at the Takasago Corporation, when typists could smell lemon, they made 54% fewer mistakes. Further studies by Worktech Academy and Management 3.0 identified several scents that positively impact us and how. 

  • Coffee: increases analytical reasoning 
  • Peppermint and lemon: increase alertness and improve performance on tedious tasks 
  • Grapefruit and orange: energize 
  • Ginger: fights fatigue 
  • Cinnamon and vanilla: enhance creativity 
  • Lemongrass, lavender, and mango: reduce stress 
  • Rosemary: improves memory 
  • Vetiver: helps with ADHD 

CMF has you covered with coffee services that keep the coffee and its intoxicating aroma coming.   

Considerations Before Introducing Scents 

Before you rush out to buy a truckload of diffusers and scented sprays, consider the following: 

1. Consider Sensitivities, Allergies, and Preferences  

Prioritize your employees’ preferences and sensitivities when selecting scents. What appeals to one person may not necessarily appeal to another, and certain scents may trigger allergies or sensitivities in some individuals. Opt for scents that are generally well-received and pose no risk of any negative reactions. 

2. Consider the Scent Source 

Maximize the reach of the scent. To ensure even distribution throughout your space, strategically position diffusers or air fresheners in commonly used areas such as entrances, break rooms, and restrooms. Keep in mind, the source of scents isn’t relegated to air sprays and diffusers. The soap you use in bathrooms and breakrooms, for example, is no less an important source of scent.  

3. Experiment with Different Scents and Get Feedback 

Whether you prefer a soothing environment or an invigorating one, exploring diverse scent options to discover the best aromas that contribute to an ideal working environment.  

4. Don’t Go Overboard 

Be aware of the intensity of whatever scent you use in ‘smellscaping’. A scent that is too strong can be distracting and unpleasant for some individuals, so find the right balance by adjusting the intensity of the scent source or using milder scents.  

The Effect of Scents on Marketing 

London offices with ice-cream kiosks in their reception areas. Travel agents use the scent of coconut to promote island getaways. A hotel signature scent that increases brand memory and guest satisfaction. And, of course, that irresistible smell of freshly baked bread wafting through supermarkets. There’s no doubt that scent can play a big role in your business’s marketing.  

In their article, “Inside the Invisible but Influential World of Scent Marketing,” Harvard Business Review discusses why scent branding is big business when it comes to marketing. For example, studies found that specific scents can improve a customer’s perception of quality and convince them to pay more for a product or service.  

For many years, both individuals and businesses have been exploring the potential of utilizing the compelling effects of scent. Perhaps we are on the cusp of a marketing revolution, one that uses olfactory sense to manage influence within professional environments. 

All these scents are great, but what’s one of the best scents of all? The scent of success, of course! Implement scent design into your environment and see how it transforms your workplace, business, or classroom for the better.  

Customize your workspace or academic environment today!