How To Create A Fragrance-Free Working Environment
When I was pregnant with my son, I became very sensitive to certain smells. One whiff of my office cubicle neighbor’s Cucumber-melon body lotion from Bath and Body Works was enough to make me head straight for the nearest trashcan. I had to delicately ask her to please never ever use that lotion again – at least for the next 8 months. She happily complied because we had a good working relationship. If you find yourself in the same situation (not necessarily pregnant) but find someone’s perfume, fragrant lotion or essential oils downright offensive, use these 5 steps to create a fragrance-free working environment.
Step 1: Management (or Human Resources) must create and communicate a general workplace policy regarding fragrance. The policy should explain that some people have unpleasant responses to scented products. Perfumes can cause sniffling, dizziness, headaches, nausea and breathing problems. Some reactions, like shortness of breath, are particularly severe for people with preexisting respiratory conditions, such as asthma.
Step 2: Educate your workforce on how to find products (sprays, lotions, aftershave, etc) without heavy scents. It’s pretty easy to spot by looking at the cosmetic ingredients list. If your product lists “fragrance” as an ingredient, then avoid that one. Beware of products that claim to be “unscented” as they may actually still contain a fragrance. Look at the label to know for sure.
Step 3: Set an example for your employees. Don’t wear scented products yourself, and avoid using air fresheners, scented candles at the office reception desk and scented sprays in the bathroom. If you want to freshen the air, turn on some fans and open a few windows.
Step 4: Encourage employees to talk to each other about their scent sensitivities. Tell people it’s OK to ask a coworker to stop using that heavily perfumed veggie/fruit lotion combo, or to turn off their essential oil diffuser – as long as it’s done politely.
Step 5: Meet with individual workers one-on-one if excessive scents remain a problem after the general workplace policy has been presented. Explain your reasons for calling the person into your office, reassure the employee by letting he or she know that they didn’t mean to offend anyone, and then ask them to avoid wearing the scent.
It’s a chemical fact that a delightful fragrance to one person can cause unpleasant reactions in another. While it’s important for everyone to feel comfortable in the workplace, confronting a scent-loving worker the wrong way could cause hard feelings if not done properly. A workplace policy is the best way to set a standard and address the problem.