The sweet smell of success that leaves workers' senses reeling

One of Britain's biggest staff agencies believes that employers should consider showering their workers with stimulating odours to help them keep their noses to the grindstone.

Reed Personnel Services notes the idea is catching on in Japan, keeping companies a nose ahead of the competition as it were, and believes the British should try it.

Infusing smells into air conditioning systems is apparently all the rage in Tokyo and managers claim it enhances productivity.

At the Kajima Corporation, management lays a little citrus scent on its workforce to refresh them, then "more gentle" fragrances to help them concentrate. This is followed by woody scents to afford a few moment's mental relaxation. Then the whole process begins again, apparently without driving anyone potty.

The main problem in individualistic Britain is that one person's agreeable bouquet is another's unconscionable niff.

In a poll conducted by Reed, however, some 40 per cent of employers in the United Kingdom thought the idea was not to be sniffed at.

Some 29 per cent of the 205 organisations in the survey vaguely poo-pooed it, with eight per cent holding their noses in disgust. Some said they were "shocked" by the proposal; another offered the opinion that the Japanese could keep the idea. A third said it might induce allergic reactions and a fourth commented: "Stuff and nonsense, what appeals to one offends another."

Three out of ten respondents said they were often assailed by unpleasant workaday pongs which impaired people's motivation. Such odours ranged from methane gas from rotting rubbish, drains, "musty old building smells", lavatories, after-shave and BO.

Among the proponents of labour-inducing odours, lemon seemed to be the favourite, followed by pine. Lavender was the least favourite, with rose and vanilla dividing opinion.

Other scents which might improve morale were apple, coffee, geranium, lemon grass, mint, peach, peppermint and "sea breeze". The aroma of freshly- printed money also had its strong supporters.

James Reed, the aromatic chief executive at Reed, said: "At a time when the productivity and motivation of each individual employee is so crucial to maintaining the competitive edge of UK business, this is certainly an area which employers should seriously examine." Reed itself argues that "logistical problems" would prevent it from leading the way in Britain.

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