Banning smoking breaks could increase staff stress and absence

Banning smoking breaks for staff could lead to increase stress and absence levels within an organisation.

Less than a quarter (24%) of of the 2,103 people surveyed for Croner’s The workplace implication of the decline of the smoking break report said that they would cope well or fairly well if smoking breaks were completely banned at work. More than half (56%), meanwhile, said they would cope well or fairly well if they were only allowed to smoke during their lunch hour.

Around 16% of a company’s workforce could also suffer from some form of stress if they were not allowed to smoke during working hours, which may potentially lead to increased absence costs.

On average, around one-in-four (24%) of employees smoke. A company of 100 employees could lose as much as £57,245 a year in absence costs from smoking employees suffering from stress. This compares to £16,520 a year that the company would lose in time spent on smoking breaks.

Gillian Dowling, employment technical consultant at Croner, said: “In office-based jobs where breaks are normally handled informally, smokers treat smoking breaks as a way of refocusing after a period at the computer, just as non-smokers take regular breaks for coffee, personal phone calls or a snack. Taking this freedom away could increase stress levels.”

More than half (52%) of employees who smoke, however, are keen to quit the habit.

“Initiatives to help employees stop smoking is just one way to make staff feel recognised and appreciated. While smokers should not be made to feel pressured to take advantage of these initiatives, having them available is just one more employee benefit that will lead to a more motivated and happy workforce,” added Dowling.