I work in an office which promotes cordial behavior among its employees. We are so used to being nice to one another that not only do we exchange pleasantries but also watch out for one another as acquaintances whenever possible. This has led to an understanding of being considerate towards one another. We had to practice this understanding around two months back when a colleague of mine lost his wife in a plane crash. Devastated was a small word for what he felt. He stayed at home for a few days to grieve her loss then came back to work as he felt lonely at home. Since that day, all of us pay special attention to him and make sure that he feels wanted. We focus on empathizing rather than sympathizing with the person. Therefore instead of feeling sorry for him, we make sure he is in a normal atmosphere.
Even though we are considerate of his pain, his depression is causing us inconvenience at the workplace. He is absentminded due to which he forgets to take a shower for days at an end. Due to the emotional mess he is in, we do not bring up this topic with him. But now it is becoming unbearable. His body odor acts as a negative distraction at work which hinders our work productivity. Even the air freshener is not effective anymore. I don’t want to raise this issue as it might be inhuman on my part. But I can’t keep up with it either. What can be done?
Apart from the job roles, everyone has to perform on a regular basis, another key factor of the workplace is that all the employees have to work in collaboration with one another. This means that certain people have to work in close physical proximity with their peers. This practice might not seem like a big deal unless you have worked with a smelly coworker. A majority of us must have been around a person whose body odor has made you cringe while working. If regular body odor can cause inconvenience then I can’t even begin your plight of working with an individual who hasn’t showered for days. This clearly states that this issue needs to be taken seriously not only for the colleagues but also the individual who is in this mess.
We usually take depression likely stating that the person is over thinking and will be fine over a period of time. But it is time we take it seriously and address it like a normal illness. I understand that working alongside a smelly coworker is not exactly the ideal workplace atmosphere. You can ask the HR of your company to bring up this issue with the employee in a tactful manner. Be more of a friend than a colleague at such a time. Express your concern for his state and offer help. This way you will find a solution for this problem without hurting the sentiments of the person. At the same time, you can also make sure if the person is holding up or not.