Benefits That Come from Implementing A Smoke-Free Workplace Policy

Contributed article in our business series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

In the early days, smoking used to be commonplace in areas that it is strictly prohibited nowadays. Offices, hospitals and even airplanes. Were not spared of this common, everyday habit. Today, this has changed. People are getting increasingly knowledgeable and aware of the negative impacts tobacco products have on one’s health. More and more people are quitting smoking or are not committing to it at all. Same goes for office space and any other enclosed spaces. Employees are expressing their annoyance and dissatisfaction with tobacco emissions. Ones that never have, nor were going to smoke are particularly vocal about the negative effects of second-hand smoke. Which is understandable, since this group of people used to be forced to inhale someone else’s smoke. All of that has changed but the employers were faced with a dilemma. How does one promote a healthy working environment while offering a space for more passionate smokers? Here are some of the benefits a smoke-free working environment offers to our employee and the collective in general.

1. Tobacco-related dangers
Use of tobacco has been proven time after time to increase various health risks. It can affect many aspects of the human body and can very well lead to death. To add insult to injury, nicotine is one of the main ingredients in tobacco products. The reason being is that it is highly addictive thus making it particularly difficult to quit. It increases dopamine levels in the organism which are in charge of us feeling happy. And that is the main reason people are continuing to smoke, they need the dopamine fix that nicotine and other chemical offer. Some people smoke in social situations while others have a much larger need for these products. Tobacco addiction can exhibit many negative side effects. We have already covered but is worth mentioning the inability to stop smoking despite repeated attempts to do so. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and may include but are not limited to tremors, irritability and increased heart rate. Certain triggers might be associated with wanting to light up like the end of a meal or a stressful situation. The most discussed topic of tobacco is the increased probability of causing cancer. Especially lung cancer, which seems to be highly correlated with tobacco use. All of these consequences have a great detrimental effect on personal and public health, but as we are about to see, the professional aspect is also greatly affected.

2. Effects on the professional setting
Companies are actively discouraging tobacco use during working hours. Especially indoors, as employees are legally obligated to exit the premise if they want to indulge in a smoke break. Smoking causes a reduction in productivity that manifests itself in various different forms. First is a direct decrease in productivity like inability to focus and forgetfulness. Absenteeism due to frequent smoke breaks and health issues also rises. Associated medical expenditures are much higher. Dangers related to fires rise exponentially. Even employees that are non-smokers experience a decrease in productivity because of the irritation caused by second-hand smoke. Finally, customers may be deterred from engaging with our business because they probably prefer a smoke-free environment. As we can see, the negative effects tobacco products have on productivity can be severe and far-reaching. Usually, businesses remedy this with a no smoking sign. But there are plenty of other much more intricate methods of promoting a smoke-free work culture.

3. Creating smoke-free company policies
Our current workplace culture and the ratio between smokers and non-smokers in our office will dictate our next course of action. Typically, the best compromise is to not allow smoking anywhere in the building but also designate an outdoor area for smokers. It can be the roof or in front of the company parking lot for example. Depending on the type of work we are in, some companies outright ban smoke and tobacco scent residues on persons. It might seem a little overboard but if we are dealing with customers, clients or potential business partners on a regular basis, it makes a lot of sense. Whatever we decide to do we need to make our policy clear. All employees need to have a copy of it upon employment and any subsequent changes made to it must be publicly disclosed. The best combination of methods would be introducing the carrot as well as the stick. We need to make sure that everyone is aware that there are consequences and penalties for failing to comply with these policies.

4. Considerations
There are a number of things to consider when wanting to create a smoke-free policy. Rules can be misinterpreted and people can be fussy about imposed policies. Therefore, it is important to adhere to certain guidelines. Above all else, we need to understand and incorporate any state and local laws that will determine our smoking policies. If these allow for smoking on the premises, it can only be done in clearly marked areas. As for disposal, it needs to be managed in line with safety standards since tobacco products can cause fires. People tend to use tobacco as an excuse to have more breaks than it is the convention. It is important to make a statement that extra breaks to smoke are not permitted. Designated smoke areas are to be used strictly before work, after and during lunch. All tobacco products need to be clearly included in our policies. That goes for chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes and other substitutes that some people would not consider smoking. And finally, employees need to know the full extent of the penalties associated with failing to comply with these non-smoking policies. These include discipline and in worse case scenarios, termination from the workplace.

Any policy that brings up the question of general health and wellbeing of employees is a positive one. Yes, it has multiple benefits both personal and professional and they are closely related. It is one of the primary concerns all modern companies have. Employees, customers and business clients alike will appreciate working and interacting in a smoke-free environment.

Author: Lucas Parker – Lucas is a business consultant with a passion for writing. Doing his research, exploring and writing are his favorite things to do. Besides that, he loves playing his guitar, hiking and traveling.

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