WORKPLACE / OCT. 24, 2013
version 6, draft 6

The Real Cost of Workers’ Smoking Breaks

A study for Voucher Codes Pro revealed that on a daily basis, smokers spend 45 minutes per day outside the workplace, which adds up to roughly four hours a week. On the whole, this shockingly means that smokers end up with seven fewer working days a year than their colleagues who don’t smoke.

 The research also showed that:

  • Smokers said that they tend to take five sick days a year due to illnesses or medical appointments immediately associated with smoking.
  • Less than one in five smokers believed that smoking made them a less hardworking employee than their non-smoking co-workers.
  • Nearly half of the participants (46%) thought that smoking improved their work performance because they felt it relieved stress and was a chance to chat with colleagues.
  •  Respondents said they took six fag breaks and spent 7 minutes and 30 seconds to finish their cigarette.

The results outlined above clearly indicate that although smoking breaks may boost workers’ productivity, they cost a significant amount of time in the long run, if smokers don’t make up the time they spend outside work.

Moreover, even though smokers admit that their productivity is not affected by their smoking breaks, six in ten non-smokers admitted that they had to cover for their colleagues who are on a cigarette break, with 42% having to answer their phone and 27% having to deal with clients or customers in their absence.  They also had to attend meetings in their place, do their work and make excuses for them when their boss asks where they are. 

Cigarette breaks are just an excuse to linger outside!

42% of smokers admitted to lingering outside almost five minutes longer than they need to; procrastinating before returning to their desk. Meanwhile, more than one in ten smokers said that they have been given a formal warning or even sacked by their boss after being caught skiving.   

How employers help...

Many employers have tried to help employees quit smoking rather than 'punish' them. Google for instance invests a great deal to ensure that its employees live a healthy lifestyle. Helping its workforce stop smoking is part of their policy, so it is no surprise there are small gyms, healthy food corners and doctors on site at the Google offices.   

Also, UK firms such as Typhoo, McCain and Centrica - who employ more than 35,000 people - help their employees to quit smoking by providing workplace stop smoking services or encouraging them to go to appointments during working hours without losing any pay. These companies prompt their staff to use online tools such as NHS Lifecheck and take part in more formal screening programmes to help improve their health and well being.

Clearly, the cost of smoker’s cigarette breaks to an employer is not merely a financial one. Absenteeism, lower productivity and adverse health side-effects are additional factors employers should consider in making their company more robust and their employees more productive.  


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