Do workplace ‘smoking breaks’ breed resentment among non-smokers?

Most office-based employers, regardless of their industry, have a number of workers who smoke.

Their tendency to smoke will often be used as a coping mechanism to handle work-related stress and pressures. Many employers therefore willingly allow workers who smoke to do so whenever they get the urge.

Whilst it may seem like a satisfactory arrangement, workers who don’t smoke may feel otherwise – and unmonitored breaks could add up.

A study on behalf of the British Heart Foundation astoundingly revealed that smokers disappear up to four times a day for a duration of ten minutes each. The same study also found that smoking breaks cost employers an astronomical £1,815 a year for each full-time employee who regularly puffs away during working hours.

Vapourlites.com decided to find out what non-smoking office workers across a range of industries really think and feel about their colleagues who smoke.  Their survey of 622 non-smoking office workers from across the country revealed a lot of resentment:

With such a high level of resentment among non-smokers, HR News spoke to professionals to see how they felt:

Jordan, a Senior Finance Analyst from London said:

“The financial world, just like many other industries, is fast-paced. The expectation to adapt and deliver favourable results is consistently high. Stress therefore naturally creeps in. To cope with the stress, many of my fellow colleague’s smoke – some more than others. For me it’s not a huge problem but I feel the constant smoking breaks disrupts the flow of work. With multiple team projects to deliver under tight deadlines, it becomes difficult to properly discuss and coordinate different aspects when individuals are nipping in and out to have a smoking break during actual working hours. So, in that respect, it does eventually become annoying”.

Samantha, a Human Resource Assistant from Bristol said:

“I understand that many of my colleague’s smoke to gain relief from the everyday pressures of work. They take numerous smoking breaks throughout the day, which usually last between 10 to 15 minutes each. This is on top of breaks already provided and it’s unfair on those who don’t smoke. Essentially, it feels like we are working more, with less breaks than those who smoke. I believe that companies need to actively enforce a fair cap on the duration of smoking breaks to limit excessive disruption and wasted hours during working hours”.

 

So how can HR tackle this delicate issue? We spoke to an employer who claims he the answer:

How we resolved ‘the smoking situation’:

Damien, Co-founder and Managing Director of a Digital Marketing Agency in Birmingham explained how his company tackled the growing resentment among non-smoking colleagues by changing breaks for everyone:

“Initially when we started out, there were a few of our non-smoking employees who did complain about the number of breaks their colleagues who smoked where taking. They were irritated by the fact that that they could go for a puff whenever they wanted. It’s when I received their complaints, that I did really see their point of view. By allowing these breaks, we were effectively reducing the working hours for those employees who smoked whilst maintaining normal working hours for the rest.

 

To address the situation, we decided to introduce two ten minute breaks on either side of the lunch hour for all the employees. These uninterrupted breaks have worked fantastically well for the smokers as well as non-smokers. It’s created a fair system and I would recommend the same or similar concept to all companies facing the same dilemmas”.

Author: editorialassistant

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