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Is your personal hygiene a source of office embarrasment?
Suneeta Kanga
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November 11, 2008

Picture this: Vikram Mehra is a suave young man, bright as a button and a smooth talker. He's good at his job and is always coming up with innovative ideas. But in the office, whenever he passes by a colleague's cubicle or enters someone's cabin,  those around him squirm uncomfortably, scrunching up their noses, holding their breath and leaning back in their seats. They're just waiting for him to leave, but no one tells Vikram the reason behind this behaviour.

You know why they behave like this, though, don't you? Yes, it's as you suspected -- Vikram exudes terrible body odour (there isn't any other kind!).

If you've ever worked with someone who has poor oral hygiene -- whether it's bad breath, smelly feet, or body odour -- you know how distracting and unbearable it can get, up to the point that it becomes difficult to function when that individual is around.

Here's another scenario:

At the airport, Sanjay Dhawan, a traveller, has the option of using one of two available counters to check himself in.

The first counter is manned by a staffer who has greasy hair, stubble and is wearing a wrinkled white shirt, the colour of which is now bordering between off-white and grey. He also has oily skin, paan-stained teeth and dirty fingernails. He is, however, a senior staffer and efficient at his job.

The second counter is manned by a staffer who is wearing ironed clothes, has a neat hairstyle, a nice bright smile, clean hands and smells great. He has been around for only six months and is therefore not very conversant with his job.

Whose counter do you think Sanjay Dhawan will check in from and why?

My guess is he will head straight for the second counter -- who wouldn't prefer a pleasant, clean-looking person?

Body odour

Remember, most folks are too embarrassed to tell you that you have body odour. Even your best friend will probably not mention it. And managers, too, are happy to steer well clear of the issue, often feeling unable to broach the subject until forced to do so by complaining subordinates. Even then, they are often unprepared to deal with what is a very delicate situation.

The human nose suffers from olfactory fatigue and you probably can't smell yourself at times, but others can. Therefore, evaluate yourself.

Now we live in a very hot country and as human beings, we have sweat glands that help regulate our body temperature. It is therefore quite natural for us to perspire. When perspiration is allowed to stay on our bodies for an extended period of time, however, the bacteria that feeds off it cause an offensive body odour.

Perspiration can be a serious problem if you do not take the right measures to keep clean. Fortunately, today there are many over-the-counter products available that can help you to maintain stringent standards of personal hygiene.

Most people do not acquire these good habits because of poor planning and thoughtlessness rather than lack of money. Most measures to remain hygienic and clean either do not cost anything at all or then very little. It is worth spending a little on basic toiletries to remain clean and hygienic.

So here is how you can prevent or get rid of body odour:  

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Oral hygiene

Taking good care of one's teeth is one of the smartest health investments one can make, helping to ensure that they will remain strong, healthy and white for a lifetime. Taking good care of your mouth and teeth will give you pleasant breath, a nice smile and fewer cavities.

Grooming, health and hygiene

Hygiene is more than just being clean -- it is defined as the many practices that help people keep healthy.

Practicing good personal hygiene is smart for two reasons. First, it helps prevent people from catching and spreading illnesses and disease, which is of key importance when it comes to the office environment. Second, it helps people feel good about themselves and their bodies.

Also remember, you are never completely well-groomed till you have conquered personal hygiene. Everything about you must be squeaky clean.

Here are a few other general tips to keep in mind when it comes to personal hygiene:

Do keep in mind that personal hygiene is important no matter what field of work you are in, not only as a courtesy to co-workers, customers and everybody you encounter during your work day -- it is vital to your own physical and emotional wellbeing.

Suneeta Kanga freelances as a corporate groomer, international etiquette expert, beauty advisor and aesthetics and style consultant for various individuals and organizations including airline training centers, finishing schools, banks and corporate business organisations. She can be contacted at

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