Handling Body Odor in the Office

It can be difficult to appropriately navigate the issue of body odor in the workplace. Do you say something? Is it an HR issue?

Consultant Kevin Sheridan provides six tips for dealing with what can be a very awkward situation. Sheridan recommends that companies include a dress cody policy that addresses hygiene in the company’s employee handbook. The policy could include standards about hand washing and avoiding strong perfumes and colognes, and should be reviewed during the on-boarding process, as well as through occassional reminders.

It is not recommend to ignore the situation. Sheridan says:

The reality is that body odor is a very real workplace concern and will become even more so as summer approaches. Strong body odor can be incredibly disrupting. Allowing the foul smells to breed will seriously hinder your team’s effectiveness, engagement, and productivity. Certain team members might not want to work with or even communicate with people who have body odor, so ignoring the situation can create bigger problems for team effectiveness. When employees work directly with clients or customers, good hygiene is even more important, as employees are a reflection of the company.

Additionally, HR should have a process in place to investigate any concerns. This will ensure fairness to both parties and avoid a potential legal dispute.

Other tips include how the person in question should be approached to discuss the issue, and allowing employees to fill their work areas with pleasant smelling items such as air fresheners and plants.

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