At a former workplace of mine, there was a member of staff who used to microwave their Filet ‘O’ Fish in the communal kitchen. While we never found out who this person was, their rather unsavoury olfactory presence was felt long after they’d snuck away to consume their no-doubt-volcanically hot burger.
The moral of this story is: scent in the workplace matters - not just for yourself, but for those around you.
Fishy decisions in the office: to be avoided.
It might feel odd for me to start an article about the politics of wearing scent in the office with this example, but stay with me. Of course, I am aware that microwaving a fish sandwich and spritzing on a cologne are two vastly different things (at least, I hope they are).
What I mean to illustrate is that what brings you pleasure might not bring the same pleasure for others. Unlike many other situations where you apply scent, choosing a juice for the office should not just be something that makes you feel your most confident self, but also respect the olfactory boundaries of others who you come in contact with throughout the working day.
Your scent decisions matter.
However, rather than any sort of limitation of personal expression, I think that bearing these two factors in mind should help any person push the boundaries of what they wear and explore some new fragrance options that perhaps they haven’t thought about before.
The core difference between your work scent and, say, a scent you wear on a date, is that the latter is specifically to communicate a certain aspect of your personality to one other person. Your work scent, on the other hand, should communicate a broader overview of your personality to many people - above all, it should highlight that you’re a team player.
Workplace scents - a challenge and an opportunity.
Let’s say you’re the type of person that loves a big, assertive note like tobacco. A fragrance that mixes rich woods and deep spices with tobacco would be too heavy and probably too dominant for the office - it would fill the room, especially if sprayed on just before a meeting. A tobacco-forward scent blended with lighter, greener notes will be far more approachable, and still highlight the unmistakable warmth that makes the note so addictive.
Smokey fragrances might be a tough sell in the workplace.
That’s why, for an ideal office fragrance, it’s best to plump for something that has the qualities of an ideal colleague. It should be amiable and appeal to a wide range of colleagues, but also has an interesting point of view. These two things are not mutually exclusive, nor do they rule out wearing something you love.
While it would be impossible for me to recommend certain notes or combinations of notes for something so personal as scent, the best way to navigate work-based scent is with ingredients that err towards the light and fresh: citruses, florals, green and ozonic (aquatic) notes (editor's note/plug: perhaps the fresh Coast or the citric Atlantic might fit the bill?).
Aquatic scents work well. Important note: no fish are present in this photo.
Even if these aren’t the thrust of the fragrance itself, a solid base of crisp, sparkling notes resonate well with a broad spectrum of people. The presence of these notes dial down the seriousness of other richer notes and give an instant uplifting feeling not just to the wearer but to whomever the wearing might be interacting with, whether that’s shaking hands before a meeting or simply walking past in the hallway.
And that’s the person you want to be in the office: someone who both feels great about themselves and someone who can help others feel more positive about their day by simply walking into a room - not by leaving it to go eat your Filet ‘O’ Fish.