The Latest Workplace Controversy in Japan: “Smell Harassment”

### Smells Like Trouble

In Japan, the term “smell harassment” or “sume-hara” refers to making someone uncomfortable through strong offensive smells like body odor and bad breath. As the rainy season approaches, concerns over body odor and sume-hara are back in the news. While there are no legal repercussions for smelling bad at work, companies are starting to recognize the impact of sume-hara on workplace performance and employee well-being.

According to Kotobank, the term smell harassment gained popularity around 2010. A survey conducted by Perfect Perio in 2013 revealed that people at work were concerned about bad breath, leading to the broadening of sume-hara to include various offensive smells like perfume, fabric softeners, pets, cigarette smoke, and the smell of the elderly (kareishu). Women, in particular, were more bothered by the smells of others, with bad breath being the most common complaint.

### Taking the Indirect Approach

Dealing with sume-hara can be challenging, as the culprit is often unaware of the offensive smell. In a case where a part-timer at a supermarket complained about a coworker’s odor, it was discovered that the smell was due to mold in the employee’s washing machine. Other individuals shared their experiences of dealing with offensive smells, with one person successfully encouraging a coworker to use deodorant for the first time.

### The Corporate Approach

Addressing smell harassment in the workplace requires a delicate approach. Companies are encouraged to incorporate smell harassment awareness into training sessions and implement measures to improve personal hygiene and mitigate odors. Social insurance consultant Minoda Shingo suggests installing air purifiers and upgrading ventilation systems to combat offensive smells. Some companies, like Osaka cosmetics company Mandom and Kai Corporation, are taking proactive steps to prevent body odor in the workplace.

Sume-hara may not be as widely recognized as other forms of harassment, but as awareness grows, employees are becoming more vocal about addressing all forms of workplace harassment. With companies beginning to acknowledge the impact of sume-hara on employee well-being and productivity, measures are being taken to create a more pleasant and hygienic work environment.

Original Story at – 2024-05-19 21:58:33

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