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Smoking breaks

Any advice on how to manage smoking breaks, should this time be deducted from lunch time? Employees seem to take a smoking break every hour plus a lunch break... Our workforce has more smokers than non-smokers...
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  • I took a three-pronged approach to this at a workplace that had a large proportion of smokers.

    1. Yes, smoke breaks come out of their one-hour contractual break, to a maximum of 4 smoke breaks per day (we did some observations and identified that, contrary to the belief of smokers that a typical smoke break was five minutes long they were, in fact, about ten minutes long).

    2. We moved the smoking area to make it longer walk. In compensation, we made it more sheltered, but we did find that the number of smoke breaks people took on rainy days came down by about 25%.

    3. We began to look at ways to encourage smoking cessation. Now, this last one didn't get a lot of traction by the time I moved on, but had a lot of potential to explore.
  • In Local Government we dont allow any time for smoking breaks - has to be taken out of the the 30 minute lunch break of which they also have to be far enough away from the building (and not be seen from Senior management offices!) due to the smoking ban in force.
    We also offer support for Smoking cessation.
  • We have a much more relaxed approach generally. Colleagues are expected to be sensible, and managers to manage it appropriately. Some staff in more stressful jobs do need some time away from their desks every now and then (smokers and non-smokers) and we just expect this to be managed on a trust basis. Where any one colleague seems to be taking advantage we have a quiet word, and if it continues a more forceful one. It seems to work for us, with everyone having the time they need to refocus/ take a minute, and the work generally getting done.
  • For non smokers why don't you measure tea breaks, toilet breaks, playing candy crush breaks or even looking our the window breaks??

    Don't measure smoking breaks measure work output the universal equalizer. It takes a little more effort than simply penalising staff that are obviously walking away from their desk but develops the correct culture over a longer term.
  • Welcome to the community Alisha!

    I'm not quite sure what the answer is, but if you ban smoking or try to reduce it you may only make matters worse by people disappearing off to the toilets for longer periods. ;-)

    (Assuming you don't measure loo breaks?)
  • In reply to David Perry:

    Hi Alisha

    This is usually a matter that regulates itself / finds its own sensible equilibrium and if it's perceived to be a problem then it's usually indicative of a far-wider problem or problems, eg disengaged / badly managed staff or managers who wholly wrongly equate staff effectiveness / productivity with the precise timings they spend sitting at their desks or who listen too literally to 'not fair' bleatings from non-smoking staff.
  • I have no issue at all with the business or managers setting some fair and reasonable limitations on what breaks people can take including smoking breaks. If people are taking one smoking break an hour for 5-10 minutes this is really eating into their productive time. Generally it shows weak communication and management. So educate your managers, communicate your standards and manage to them.
  • In reply to Alun Stowell:

    Although I agree in principle with Alun, there is a distinction to be made between smoke breaks and other kinds of break from work.

    First, they are highly visible. Not only are they usually accompanied by the cry of "just going for a smoke!" but also the accoutrements of the habit, plus the accompaniment of any other smokers who tend to take this as an opportunity to show solidarity and, of course, there is pervasive scent upon their return.

    Second, they are unique to smokers. Everyone takes toilet breaks or snack breaks, but only smokers take smoke breaks.

    Third, they are demonstrably bad for business: not only do they lose time, but they are correlated with more sickness absence and worse general health (which is correlated with lower performance). By contrast, the occasional "brain break" to make a cup of tea or do a sudoku actually correlates with better performance.

    Fourth (and I acknowledge the paternalistic nature of this point), smoking is demonstrably bad for them, so there is certain duty of care upon employers not to enable the behaviour.

    Whilst on an individual level you should, indeed, base your appraisal of the person on their performance not on their personal habits, smokers as a group should not be permitted to take unrestricted smoke breaks