Hello HR, goodbye bad smells
One way of ridding your office space of bad smells is, quite simply, policy. Sometimes it’s as cut and dried as having – in writing – that you can’t bring certain generally bad-smelling things into a shared office space. For example, you may want to add surströmming to a list of no-go bring-to-work foods. Don’t know what that is? We’ll enlighten you: as a fermented Swedish fish it’s frequently been voted the most putrid smelling food in the world. If you feel like laughing please YouTube this Nordic delicacy being opened by unsuspecting diners.
In other instances, getting rid of bad smells requires a bit more sensitivity. If the ‘something fishy’ has to do with a particular employee you need to discuss your next steps with HR first according to Bloomberg Law; they’d be aware of any potential legal and discrimination pitfalls. Then it’s a private face to face with the employee in question and addressing their smell as gently (but directly) as possible. An important outcome, as silly as it sounds, is to walk away with a reasonable expectation for body odour, understanding this needs to be flexible enough to accommodate their job role. If they’re outside in the baking sun for most of the day, you can see the need for some leeway.
Going forward, you can also make appropriate personal hygiene a condition of employment (as long as you’re within the bounds of general labour law and the Employment Equity Act). You can read about a South African case where an allegation of bad body odour and hygiene went wrong for the employer here.
At the end of the day controlling office odours is a win-some, lose-some battle – with a bit of air freshener in between. Just remember, when your taking steps to combat smells, get it all in writing.