By Liz Sheffield
Employers may find that a workplace smoking policy alone won’t deter employees from taking frequent smoke breaks. It takes a multi-faceted approach to make a difference.
A 2016 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 30% of organizations surveyed limit the number of breaks employees can take for smoking. Most respondents (85%) said their organization has a formal policy that addresses smoking in the workplace.
Not only do these policies reduce healthcare costs related to smoking, but they also serve as an attempt to decrease lost time and productivity while employees are on a smoke break. Even when breaks are limited, reports from the United Kingdom illustrate that as few as four short breaks can still add up. With each break lasting about 10 minutes, employers are losing 40 minutes—or just over 3 hours per week—of productive time when their employees step away from work to smoke.
While the number of cigarette smokers has dropped significantly in the last 40 years, the costs of smoking continue to impact employers and employees alike.
What can organizations do to limit smoke breaks at work?
Provide wellness information about the risks of smoking
More than half of organizations responding to the SHRM survey indicated they inform employees about the benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle. Whether you deliver information about health risks in a brochure, via the company intranet, or during a lunch-and-learn session, it can have an impact. Of the group that said they provide information about how smoking impacts health and wellness, nearly half indicated that employee smoking decreased after the information was provided.
Introduce initiatives to deter smoking
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) permits an incentive for participating in tobacco-cessation programs. Of the organizations surveyed by SHRM, 11% of employers charged higher life insurance rates for smokers, and 18% imposed higher health insurance premiums for smokers.
Offer a smoking cessation program
Organizations can create sustainable change by offering smoking cessation programs that include nicotine replacement options, social support, and access to coaches. MeYou Health’s QuitNet includes all of the above, and has been helping smokers quit since 1995.
The program provides an online community where smokers gather to quit and stay quit. Smokers take a daily pledge not to smoke, share how they’re doing with an online network of others who are quitting or have quit already, and have access to 24/7 support. QuitNet also offers one-on-one coaching and home delivery of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
A supportive approach to help employees adopt new, healthier behaviors can have a significant impact on the healthcare and productivity costs related to smoking. As these “Dear Smoker” letters from members of the QuitNet program show, quitting is possible when smokers are encouraged and empowered.