Dr Peter Barratt, Technical Manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene
A pleasant odour is an important element of any workplace, with fragrant environments boosting client satisfaction and even helping to improve staff productivity. In the retail industry, for example, a recent study by Ambius Premium Scenting revealed that scent significantly increases a consumer’s experience by a margin of 38%.
It may seem peripheral in comparison to other environmental considerations, but scent is an extremely influential sense. ‘Smell memory’ is the most powerful part of our memory, with humans able to recognise 10,000 different odours. Pleasant scents tend to trigger pleasant memories; even if those memories are subconscious. The opposite is true for bad odours!
Putting clients off the scent
However, few facilities managers consider how unpleasant scents outside the main office might be affecting their business – in particular, those found in the washroom. Initial Washroom Hygiene’s recent study examined the state of air care in public and office washrooms, looking at the wide-ranging implications this can have on businesses. The global report Washroom malodour: Experiences, perceptions and implications for businesses found that 73% of Brits say an unpleasant smell in the washroom would negatively affect their perception of a venue. Almost two thirds of respondents said that a bad smell would make them less likely to spend money with that company. This is concerning for facilities managers, who may not realise the impact washroom scents could have on client retention, and, ultimately, their business’s bottom line.
A bad-smelling reputation
In today’s globalised environment, the market is saturated and business competition is fiercer than ever. Consequently, business owners should do everything within their power to uphold their reputation among stakeholders and employees. Something that seems as small as a bad washroom experience can have a big influence on customers or prospects, negatively impacting reputation and repeat custom.
In our study, more than 60% said they would be put off a business if it had unpleasant-smelling washroom and almost a quarter had been embarrassed about a client using their washrooms due to the smell. Office environments came up poorly when compared to those in retail, with 25% of those surveyed reporting that cafés, bars and restaurants have cleaner washrooms than their place of work.
Incredibly, it is believed that 75% of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell and no two people experience an odour in the same way – making this sense a very personal one. Unsurprisingly, then, smells can trigger a very emotive response amongst employees and clients. Whilst almost everyone has experienced malodour in the washroom, in the UK, three quarters questioned in our study felt disgusted when noticing an unpleasant smell, with almost a quarter saying it left them ‘fearful of getting sick’.
Malodour is often strongly associated with an unhygienic environment, with those questioned associating it with uncleanliness (79%), poor hygiene (75%) and bacteria (60%). Perhaps unsurprisingly, reactions include opting to leave or not return to an establishment (51%), complaining to the owner or manager (25%) or posting a bad review online (6%). Once again, facilities managers will need to understand that it makes business sense to consider the harmful effects malodour could have on customers and clients.
But what scents do we prefer in Britain? What should facilities managers be using to scent their washrooms? Personal preference may be to use fresh scents in the washroom, from items such as flowers, rather than air fresheners. However, it’s worth noting that more than half of Brits believe that air fresheners demonstrate care and concern towards the state of the washrooms in general.
Clean up your act
Some businesses are still unaware of developments in air care solutions. Good air care solutions can remove malodour. Some such solutions can clean the air by neutralising odour molecules, as well as the bacteria and fungi that cause bad smells. They also filter, clean and intelligently fragrance the air – targeting and neutralising airborne microorganisms and odour molecules – so that fragrance particles are not simply concentrated in one area, but leave behind a pleasant, gentle fragrance throughout the washroom.
You may want to consider installing air fresheners that automatically dispense fragrance to help neutralise odours and create a pleasant-smelling environment. An air purifier can also help to eradicate any pathogenic airborne bacteria and viruses including: the flu virus, E Coli, Salmonella, Streptococcus, Rhinovirus and Hepatitis A.
If you’re unsure of the best option for your office toilet, don’t hesitate to consult the experts. Air care professionals have a deep understanding of washroom behaviours and preferences to help select the right solution for each business – whether it’s providing a fragrance or air cleaning system to aid malodour control, or more general washroom solutions to help avoid bad odours in the first place.
As people will often make judgements about your business based on the facilities it provides, it’s important to consider your washroom’s aroma. At a relatively low cost, businesses have the potential to drive better washroom behaviours. By altering poor hygiene habits and creating an environment that fosters best
practice, improvements can be seen in visitors’ health, workplace productivity and morale, as well as a boost
to your reputation and custom. A happy washroom makes for both happy employees and clients, so make sure you’re getting it right.