As employees discover that they have the ability to do their jobs remotely and don’t have to be tethered to their workplaces, office owners are leaving nothing to chance.
Not even the smell of their buildings.
Allison Lobay, global account manager for New York-based Air Aroma, says real estate owners are in demand for fragrances to make the air a little fresher and the workplace a little more comfortable and energizing. to companies that want scents to be part of their corporate signature.
Now, don’t think that aroma has a special place in companies’ strategies to extract money from their rented offices. But it’s part of an overall strategy that includes outdoor terraces, gourmet food and drinks, fitness facilities, bike storage, even golf simulators and rooftop beekeeping. It’s part of a strategy to make the workplace more exciting and better than sitting on the couch.
“Here in New York, for example, real estate companies are interested in perfuming the building itself, as opposed to individual tenant spaces,” Lobay said. “These days there are a lot of vacant office spaces. So what can real estate companies do to attract tenants? How can you make your building more attractive than the building next door?”
Some of his named clients include CBRE, the world’s largest real estate services company and a major property management division; Oxford Properties, the real estate arm of Ontario’s public employee pension system, which co-developed Hudson Yards; Coretrust Capital Partners, office investor; and luxury real estate impresario Michael Shvo’s Shvo company, of late made big plays in the office sector.
Scenting of commercial real estate is commonplace and time-honored in the hospitality sector, Peter Miscovich, executive director of strategy and innovation at JLL, said CBRE is a formidable global commercial property broker.
“A lot of boutique hotels and luxury hotels (they) all have scent profiles, and some are very successful,” Miscovich said. “We’ve seen it in the hospitality sector, we’ve seen it in retail.”
For example, at Resorts World in Las Vegas, the company uses Air Aroma to provide scents throughout the property. It also contracts with Aircuity of Norwood, Mass., to monitor its air “through hundreds of sensors throughout the property,” a spokeswoman said in an email. While casinos are notorious for cigarette and cigar smoke, monitors make sure patrons never breathe in stale air or bad smells.
“Our biggest markets are higher education and life sciences, where there are labs that bring in 100 percent outside air, so optimizing airflow can reduce their HVAC energy use by 50 percent or more,” said an Aircuity spokesperson. Sarah Callahan said in an email. Air filters also reduce carbon emissions and create a “healthier environment.”
“We are also installed in K-12 schools, office buildings and public gathering places such as casinos. We’ve definitely seen increased interest in indoor air quality because of the pandemic, but I don’t have an exact percentage to provide,” Callahan said.
The Marriott hotel chain also uses aromas as part of its marketing strategy. All 30 of Marriott’s Bonvoy brands have a specific scent, some of which can be purchased at Marriott Bonvoy boutiques, according to Matthew Boettcher, vice president of brand operations, in an emailed statement. This has been part of the chain’s strategy for more than 20 years.
“Scent is part of creating these distinct sensory journeys to help differentiate each brand and create a memorable experience for each guest,” said Boettcher.
Scents are most commonly used in lobbies, public restrooms and fitness centers, he said. Scents “must be controlled to be impactful yet subtle,” he said, so they “add an elegant touch to the overall brand experience.”
Scents in hotels are so popular that it’s not uncommon to sell them to guests through candles, diffusers and sprays, Lobay said.
Certain scents are associated with increased fertility. Lobay said citrus scents are used in the office to energize or make people feel happy. If managers want to calm employees anxious about returning to the office, lavender may be more suitable for a more “calming, relaxing, comforting” effect.
Miscovich said peppermint can be “good for helping with concentration and alertness.”
At Brookfield Property Partners, one of the world’s largest commercial real estate owners with office buildings on five continents, fragrances are not used. A spokesman for Citrovia said, An outdoor garden dominated by the scent of lemons opened in 2021 at Brookfield’s high-rise office and residential building in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of Manhattan West. The aim was to “elevate the building experience”, where there were completed buildings mixed in with those still under construction, the spokesman said. The garden has since been closed.
One caveat is that some people are allergic to the scents and the ingredients used to make them, Miscovich said. A bad reaction can lead to an expensive lawsuit that companies will do almost anything to avoid.
“If there’s a risk that introducing a scent that has the best intentions to help you focus, to help create calmness, if you have a small percentage of people who have an allergic reaction or have an adverse reaction, that could be a problem.” he said. “Given the current environment, most people in management or senior human resources are trying to be very careful.
“I mean, even the smell of coffee, believe it or not, is noticeable,” Miscovich said. “Yes, we are over the COVID pandemic crisis, but 400-500 people are still dying from COVID in this country every day. I have several HR people who are still very concerned about packing people into crowded offices. Adding fragrance here can cause more complexity and more problems than good.”
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