Sweet smell of success: Using scent in the workplace

There is no doubt that smell has a tremendous pull on human beings. Scent has the ability to transport us, move us and motivate us. Different industries have used smell to promote sales for decades from the basic of the smell of baking bread or roasting coffee when showing your home when it is for sale to Shanghai Tang who famously use a signature scent in their stores.

The use of smell has evolved beyond this, with individuals and offices now looking at how to use aromatherapy techniques to create positive environments where staff can be motivated depending on their task. Research has shown that using an appropriate aromatherapy oil can improve an individuals mood up to 40%.

How can scents be used in the workplace?


Some essential oils can help workers relax and focus during stressful situations. Stress is not only unhealthy but it can negatively affect how employees perform at work. Lavender and rosemary have been scientifically proven to significantly decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the brain. Linalool, a substance found in lemons, reduces our fight or flight response.

Increase Performance and Promote Creativity

Workers seeking to reduce fatigue, improve mental clarity and be task-focussed can use scents to help them with their performance. A study showed that the smell of lemons, jasmine and lavender reduced typing errors by 54%, 33% and 20% respectively. Peppermint also improved performance when doing tasks that require speed and accuracy. Choosing the right smell can also help boost creativity and innovation.


Some specific scents worth considering for the office:

  • Lemon promotes concentration, calms and is useful if you are feeling anger, anxiety or are stressed and run down. Lemon also has some antiviral and antibacterial properties.
  • Lavender calms and controls emotional stress. It soothes nerves, relieves tension and depression.
  • Jasmine calms nerves, is uplifting and is an anti-depressant promoting feelings of confidence, optimism and positive energy.
  • Rosemary excellent for improving memory, fights physical exhaustion and mental fatigue and increases alertness.
  • Cinnamon stimulates, improving concentration and focus while combating fatigue.
  • Peppermint useful for creative activities or when brainstorming. It increases energy, stimulates the mind, promotes concentration and helps with clear thinking.
  • Coffee enhances analytical reasoning and task-based activities. Obviously, it is good at keeping you alert and awake and ready to solve problems
  • Vetiver boosts brain patterns, improves focus and attentiveness leading to better concentration.


How to deploy scent in the office

It is important to remember that the use of aromatherapy in the office is contentious. Some people are allergic, others may find the scent unsettling or simply unpleasant. Some scents are not appropriate for those who have medical issues or are pregnant. It is also important to consider spillage and technical equipment interference.

Companies should decide if they will allow individuals to use their own scents. There are some channels that work well for office-based environments like scented stress balls, roller balls, scented hot/cold packs and essential oil diffuser clips that have refillable scent pads.

Overall it important to consider scents as part of a holistic approach to workplace enhancement and wellbeing. Ensuring that there are clear guidelines, objectives and engagement to deploy scent into the office can mean that you can successfully use smell to change how your workforce acts, feels and performs.