What Do You Think About Smoke Breaks?

There was something bewildering at my first full-time job. Not exactly in my office, but in the building we shared with other companies.

It seemed like whenever I arrived at work or took a bathroom break in the restroom shared by the entire building, I’d see the same people smoking outside. I was baffled that their employers were okay with them using so much company time for a recreation.

At the time, I fancied the idea someday running my own company, and I wondered if an employer could simply forbid smoking or not hire someone if they smoked. I’m not sure about the legality of either of those things, but today I read about a better solution: Instead of punishing those who smoke, why not reward non-smokers?

As detailed in this article, Japanese marketing firm Piala recently introduced a new policy that grants non-smoking staff members 6 extra paid vacation days every year. Apparently 30 employees so far have used the extra paid leave, and the policy has had at least some impact on 4 employees quitting smoking.

I love positive incentives and reinforcements like this. Though, as someone who has never smoked a cigarette, I’m pretty biased. What do you think about it?

10 thoughts on “What Do You Think About Smoke Breaks?”

  1. This may not directly correlate, but I’m a firm believer in judging someone by the quality of their work and not by how long they are at their (literal or metaphorical) desk. A lot of this comes from my work and training as a musician. It doesn’t matter if one person is in the practice room for hours more than another; what matters is the performance on stage. Also, in a 3 hour opera, I, as a trumpet player, may only actively be playing for 10 minutes. My string colleagues, on the other hand, may only get to rest for 10 minutes. This mindset has transferred over to the administrative side of my work. If someone can take a bunch of breaks and still do their job well, more power to them. If the work isn’t quality, though, that’s a problem.

    So, my “workplace ideal” is one that doesn’t have hours, per se, and is open and flexible – do what you need to do to do good quality work, then go do other things. Now, I know many businesses, et al can’t do that, so I applaud workplaces like in the article who build a little of that flexibility into a framework that allows down time for both those who take it one way (by smoking) and another (non-smokers).

    • Jeff: That’s a great point, and I share that same philosophy. I almost thought about writing about that in the post, but I honestly don’t know if the employees I spoke of were hourly or not.

  2. When I was a manager for a fast food resturant I spoke with the owner about this very issue and we instituted “fresh air breaks” for those of us who were non-smokers. ?

  3. Smoking was also the most surprising thing to me when I entered the food service work force.

    First, I noticed that more people smoked in Ohio than in Texas, where I had recently moved from.

    Second, I noticed they did harm to the business. Not only are you wasting time and money but customers might see you smoking and then you come in reeking of it.

    • That’s an interesting point about the smell factor. I was at a restaurant recently where the server had clearly been smoking right before he delivered our food, and it was not pleasant.

  4. My company’s campus is non-smoking. We have over 1000 acres of land surrounding our buildings, and smoking is not allowed anywhere on the entire 1000 acres, inside or outside. The official policy is also that you cannot smell of smoke at work. And if you are in a role that visits customer sites, you cannot smoke on your customer sites. So essentially, the message (and I think this has been stated once or twice) is “quit smoking, or it’s going to be very inconvenient for you to have to walk or drive off campus to find a public place to smoke in.”

    I have also heard of companies that offer a discount on health insurance premiums for employees who do not smoke.

    • Adam: That’s really interesting. I like the method, though I’m curious how the company feels about those who do take the time to leave work, drive off campus, and have a smoke. It seems like it would take them away from work for even longer (not that I’m excusing it–I’m just curious if the solution actually caused more problems).

      • Possibly, yes. It’s definitely not a perfect policy. Though 90% of our staff are salaried, and it’s the type of company where taking time away from your desk generally just means you need to stay later to get your work done. And from the perspective of a non-smoker, I really appreciate not ever having to walk through a cloud of smoke when I leave my building.

        • Ah, perfect. That makes sense about the salaried employees. When I worked at the job I mentioned above, I eventually found a side door to use instead of the main entrance because of the cloud of smoke factor there.


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