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Updated 11 July 2013

Do smokers make bad employees?

Tobacco legislation has cleared the air in our workplaces, but many employees still struggle with a smoking habit that hurts their productivity. Are you one?

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Gone are the days of smoke-filled offices and ashtrays on desks. But if you’re a smoker you're no doubt still taking smoke breaks during the working day – and in smoke-free buildings that means having to trek outside.

If you’re trying to quit, consider as an additional incentive the fact that smoking can have a serious negative impact on your work productivity. For example:

  • On average, smokers miss 6.16 days of work per year due to sickness, compared to nonsmokers, who miss 3.86 days per year.
  • The more you smoke, the more production time you lose. Workers who smoke a pack a day or more have a 75% higher lost production time than do non-smoking or ex-smoker employees.
  • Employees who take four 10-minute smoke breaks a day actually work one month less per year than workers who don't take smoke breaks.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that, in the United States, each employee who smokes costs employers $1,897 (about R16 000) in lost productivity per year.

"Staying clean" at work

Some tips to help you stick with your stop smoking commitment while at work:

Aim to replace the smoke break with a positive, pleasant activity instead of simply a vacuum where all you do is fret about not being able to smoke. Do some stretches, take a short walk, have a healthy snack or read a magazine.

As is often the case with addictive behaviour, you can feed it or starve it by spending time with other smokers or with people who’ll encourage you to stay clean. Smokers at work often say they enjoy the social connection with other smokers on smoke-breaks. So why not organise a quit smoking group of employees who take supportive, and equally social “smoke-free” breaks together instead. If you can’t recruit other smokers to the cause, then it’s time to make some more non-smoker friends at work.

Whatever you do, don’t go and hang out outside chatting to smokers while you’re trying to quit… you might well end up begging for a cigarette…

At the end of the working week, calculate the amount of money you’ve saved from not buying cigarettes, and treat yourself to a relaxed, smoke-free lunch.

Also beware of after-work socialising that encourages smoking. Skip after-work drinks unless they’re being held at a smoke-free venue, or at least a venue with a separate smoking area – and, needless to say, steer well clear of it and stick to the no-smoking zone.

Do you think smoking impacts negatively on work performance? Join the discussion below.


 
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