Not all odours are deemed unwelcome. Our olfactory system plays an integral part in our everyday lives, from allowing us to understand our surrounding environments to evoking memories, emotions and eliciting important responses.
We all remember the scents of our childhood, from the comforting smells of Granny’s banana bread wafting through the house to the overpowering, pungent stench of the sickbay at school. Odours can instantly transport us to a time and place that we otherwise may not have consciously recalled. It is said that sense of smell is closely linked to memory, probably more so than any of our other senses. This is due to our olfactory receptors direct connection to the limbic system, the most primitive part of the brain. When smells are relayed to the cortex, cognitive recognition begins but the most unconscious parts of the brain are first to be stimulated, triggering certain memories or emotions. Because of this, odours are an integral part of our survival instincts. Certain smells can alert us to potential dangers such as smoke from fire or gas from a leaking pipe, to contaminated food or surfaces.
Individuals will have different perceptions of different odours, it is not only due to the sensation of the odours themselves but of the experiences and emotions associated with them. Think of why certain fragrances are preferred by some but despised by others. Many studies have shown reactions to odours and our olfactory likes and dislikes are based purely on emotional associations, with even the power to alter people’s moods. Retailers have certainly tapped into this notion by dispensing comforting scents like cinnamon within their stores that have a proven positive effect on customers which in turn can lead to increased spending. On the other hand, foul odours can be associated with uncleanliness and poor hygiene especially in washrooms, which is enough for customers to black mark an establishment, seriously impacting a business’ reputation.
Odours, whether deemed good or bad, can elicit powerful emotions and create meaningful associations for everyone. It is worth elevating them as part of your assessment process in the maintenance of your workplace or business.
We love odours because they are simple to manage and fixing them can have a dramatic turnaround in how facilities are perceived, allowing you to create a positive and enjoyable environment for everyone, from employees to patrons.