Several debates are going on right now about banning smoking in the workplace. This doesn’t just mean inside the building, but anywhere on the premises. Employers look to cut costs related to time off due to health issues, healthcare and insurance costs, and productivity losses. There certainly are many reasons to consider doing it.
But those that argue against such measures say that it’s a human right and they should be allowed to continue. So, what are the pros and cons of allowing smokers to smoke during working hours.
Is It a Human Right?
There is no specific human right or law that requires employers to allow their staff to take a smoking break as and when they choose. Most countries and jurisdictions require that staff have regular breaks at a certain time. What they do within these breaks, within reason, is up to them. Therefore, smoking can be done during the breaks that are agreed with the employer.
As for additional breaks to smoke, some companies will allow it; others will not. The reason for allowing it is that chronic smokers can lose their concentration and get temperamental without their nicotine fix. For this reason, some employers allow it, but this is becoming less common.
In 2021, there are many alternatives to smoking a cigarette, many of which can be done without the need to take a break. Vaping is popular, although some offices do not allow it inside. There are also alternatives like UK snus which can be purchased online and shipped worldwide. Snus is a type of moist tobacco that can be held between the lips and gums. It contains nicotine so that it can provide relief from cravings for smokers. Other options, albeit slightly less effective ones, include nicotine patches and gum.
Issues for Employers
The issue of smoking in work is a double-edged sword for HR departments. On the one hand, allowing people to go for smoking breaks means a possible loss of productivity. It certainly means less time spent attending to work. Groups of smokers are likely to congregate and chat, thus extending the time away from tasks. If they go regularly, this could equate to hundreds of hours per year, costing employers dearly.
But on the other hand, not allowing smoking breaks can reduce morale and productivity. Smokers can lose their attention span, get tired, and even become agitated or depressed without nicotine. This could result in a lack of interest in work and even conflict with other employees. Furthermore, employees want to feel trusted, and banning them from going to smoke could impact this.
Whether you ban smoking completely, allow it during scheduled breaks, or give employees free rein will depend on your business type, size, and the environment you’ve created. There are, however, many benefits to encouraging your staff to switch to an alternative or give up cigarettes completely. Thankfully, there are solutions, so neither your company nor your team has to deal with withdrawals. The key is finding the best solution for you and your team.