Scents in the workplace

Many people are sensitive to scented products such as perfume, air fresheners, candles, and cleaning products. Individuals with scent sensitivities may experience health effects including some or all of the following symptoms:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • respiratory symptoms
  • skin irritation

Individuals may also experience anxiety, depression, and difficulty concentrating. Everyone can help to support scent-free environments and individuals with scent sensitivities:

1. Individuals with scent sensitivities 

  • Inform your supervisor and coworkers of your sensitivities.
  • Look for opportunities to manage your sensitivities (e.g., situate yourself near a window that can be opened, take frequent breaks).
  • Communicate respectfully and work collaboratively to find a solution.

2. Coworkers

  • Be considerate.
  • Choose scent-free products where possible.
  • Empathize with the individual and support them as requested. Listen respectfully and work collaboratively to find a solution.

3. Supervisors

  • Actively encourage a scent-free workplace (e.g., choose scent-free cleaning products, personally use scent-free products, describe the benefits of a scent-free workplace at staff meetings).
  • Listen respectfully and without judgement to concerns of individuals with scent sensitivities and coworkers.
  • Seek information to clarify the issue (e.g., triggers, symptoms, suggested ways to mitigate).
  • Coordinate a solution that meets the needs of the scent-sensitive individual and coworkers.
  • Check in with employees frequently to ensure that the solution is satisfactory.

Towards a "scent-free" workplace

Many workplaces are choosing to go "scent-free." Here are some ways to get started:

1. Post "scent-free" messages

2. Create a "scent-free" workplace policy

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety provides content suggestions for a scent-free workplace policy. 

3. Explore "scent-free" cleaning products for the workplace