Can Scents in the Workplace Improve Employee Performance?

Improving employee performance is one of the most enduring challenges for managers and business owners across the UK. In many cases, it can be difficult to put your finger on the reason for performance levels that are not quite up to scratch. It’s often the result of a number of intangible factors such as company culture, motivation and morale, which can make it an extremely difficult problem to solve. Wouldn’t it be fantastic then if something as simple as introducing scents into the workplace could make a lasting difference?

Two colleagues chatting in a modern office

The potential of scents in the workplace

Retailers have long used the positive effects associated with different smells to influence the behaviour of customers in their stores. The smell of baking goods is used to tempt supermarket shoppers to part with more of their hard-earned dough, while Co-op Travel uses the essence of coconut to sell more foreign holidays. But could the same strategy be used to create the sweet smell of success in the workplace?

A microbiologist at Manchester Metropolitan has been researching the power of fragrances in the workplace to improve performance for the last five years. She says there is now an impressive body of evidence to suggest that the power of scents to alter human mood and performance is indisputable.  In addition and equally powerful is the whole concept of creating a full brand experience for clients visiting your space – this is an area of untapped potential.

What does the science say?

  • A study conducted in 1990 found that the scent of peppermint enhanced alertness, concentration and focus in the workplace.
  • Research in the UK revealed a link between the scent of rosemary and increased memory and alertness.
  • This Japanese study discovered a link between exposure to lavender on a break and increased levels of concentration when employees were back at work.
  • A study published in the International Study of Neuroscience found that the scent of lavender helped subjects solve problems faster and more accurately than a control group.
  • Another Japanese study found that lemon aromas could increase the accuracy of typists. Employees made 54 percent fewer errors when exposed to lemon and 33 percent fewer mistakes when they could smell jasmine.

Which scents can improve employee productivity in the workplace?

If you hope to boost mental focus, clarity and productivity in the workplace, there are a number of different scents you can use. That includes:

Rosemary – Rosemary is not just an excellent accompaniment to culinary dishes; it can also have a positive impact on your team. The scent of rosemary has proven benefits for memory and alertness. One study showed it could even enhance brain patterns that led to improvements in employee productivity.

Lemon – The smell of lemon in the workplace can be particularly beneficial for office workers. The lively citrus aroma can keep employees alert, improve response times and boost accuracy.

Jasmine – The scent of jasmine can reenergise and reinvigorate your team. Placing a diffuser in a breakout room or simply giving the room a light spray can help to boost the mood and energy levels of your employees.

Coffee – We’re all familiar with the rejuvenating powers of a freshly brewed coffee, but the smell of coffee can also have a powerful effect. Studies have shown that it can improve alertness and even help people perform better at analytical reasoning tasks.

cup of coffee on a table

Cinnamon – One scent that has been directly linked to improved work performance is cinnamon. It can help employees complete tasks that require heightened attention and enhance their memory at the same time.

Peppermint – A quick whiff of peppermint can be extremely energising, helping to keep your workers alert and even improve their ability to remember details more accurately.

Pine – Stress and fatigue are leading factors in the record rates of absenteeism and presenteeism in UK workplaces. Thankfully, something as simple as the scent of fresh pine can help. It has been shown to reduce stress and even has an antidepressant quality, helping to lift the spirits of your team.

Lavender – Lavender is known to have a sedative effect, so it’s perhaps surprising that it can also improve employee productivity. When used during breaks, lavender will recharge the brain and improve concentration and productivity when employees return to work.

How can you introduce scents into the workplace?

There are a number of simple ways you can create beneficial aromas in your workplace.  These include anything from stand-alone machines to systems that integrate into your HVAC system.  Even the smell of fresh flowers or a reed diffuser enhance environments dramatically.  Here’s your opportunity to get ahead of this budding trend and be unique!

The power of ‘scent branding’

Some businesses are taking fragrances in the workplace one step further. They are using the practice of scent branding to help them form immediate, powerful and differentiated emotional connections with their customers.

As we all know, a scent can be incredibly powerful and trigger memories from long ago, even taking us back to events from our childhoods. Brands use unique signature scents that are created specifically for them to spark customers’ memories of their products and events. In the right setting, scented environments can increase purchase intent, improve the perception of product quality and boost the willingness of consumers to pay more for a product.

There are certain industries which are particularly well suited to scent branding. Hospitality, retail, fitness and property sales all commonly use scent branding to influence customer behaviour. However, many more brands in other industries are also adopting this approach.

Make your workspace as productive as it can be

At Accent Office Interiors, we provide office refurbishments, workplace assessments and interior design services to create unique workspaces that allow your team to work in the most efficient, productive and harmonious way. Get in touch to discuss your requirements today.

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