Are extra smoking breaks unfair to your employees?

With an average of four smoking breaks per a working day, more than 60 per cent of office workers believe they are ‘unfair’.

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.

A study on behalf of the British Heart Foundation astoundingly reveals smokers disappear up to four times a day for a duration of ten minutes each. The same study also finds that smoking breaks cost employers an astronomical £1,815 a year for each full-time employee who regularly puffs away during working hours. decided to find out what non-smoking office workers across a range of industries really think and feel about their colleagues who smoke.

A survey of 622 non-smoking office workers from across the country reveals

Office Workers Smoking Survey results

Jordan, a senior finance analyst from London says, ‘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 colleagues 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 says, ‘I understand that many of my colleagues smoke to gain relief from the everyday pressures of work. They take numerous smoking breaks throughout the day, which usually last between ten 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.’

Damien, co-founder and managing director of a Digital Marketing Agency in Birmingham comments, ‘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.’

Further reading on smoking breaks

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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