Smoke Breaks

You know those people at your workplace who spend a whole bunch of their time and energy watching their fellow employees to make sure they come in on time;  don’t leave before their allotted going home time;  don’t take any longer than their allotted time for breaks; aren’t on the phone making personal calls and/or don’t spend time on Facebook or playing online Poker when they’re supposed to be working?

I don’t like those people. Every office has at least one. I figure if people are getting the work done they’re supposed to be getting done and they’re doing a good job, who cares when and how they get it done? In fact, unless it’s directly impacting the amount of work I have to do, I don’t even care if these people are doing the work they’re supposed to be doing. It’s not my business to worry about that. But I guess it would be if I were their employer or supervisor.

But the Office Timekeepers spend a good deal of their time fretting about stuff  like this. One of the things that drives Office Timekeepers mental is smokers. But it’s not just Office Timekeepers who are concerned about the workplace productivity of smokers.

Let’s, for now,  leave out the whole question of things like the extra sick days taken by smokers and additional company insurance costs incurred by smokers and focus on the study that calculates smokers spend an average of one hour per workday on smoke breaks. This includes getting their coats or whatever on, getting to the smoking area, smoking the actual cigarette, doing a bit of socializing and then getting back to their desks and settled into work.

So, at an hour a day, over the course of a year, they reckon smokers are getting about 8 days’ extra leave time than non-smokers.

This has a lot of non-smokers (and employers) kind of riled up. So much so, that many employers have taken steps like banning smoking during work hours altogether. Some even refuse to hire people who smoke.

 During a discussion on this at my bus stop one morning, one of the guys (who normally seems to know what he’s talking about) said there was an employer in Europe somewhere who’s decided to give his non-smoking employees an extra 8 days of vacation every year. I can’t find anything on the interwebby to support this claim, though I did find one Swedish politician/doctor who is recommending extra vacation days for non-smokers.

It sounds interesting, mainly because I’m always in favour of giving people more vacation days. Also, a  move like this doesn’t seem quite as overtly punative toward smokers as not allowing them to smoke or not hiring them in the first place or taxing the hell out of their cigarettes. I don’t know how exactly you’d implement something like that, though

Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, there is considerable distress over “smoker discrimination in the workplace”. Employees have been fired because they couldn’t quit smoking or not hired because they were smokers. Many smokers feel they have an illness/addiction and have the right to “self-medicate” with nicotine as required.

Still, a lot of non-smoking employees resent the fact that their smoking co-workers are always trotting off for smoke breaks. I figure smokers already have enough problems for me to begrude them a few extra breaks.

And really, there’s nothing that says the rest of us can’t go for “fresh air breaks” every hour or so, right?

I’m pretty much addicted to fresh air, but I can’t see myself having the discpline, dedication or commitment to get me to put on my coat and galoshes 5 ot 6 times a day and stand outside our building for 10 minutes at a time in rain, blizzards, hailstorms, windstorms, monsoons, typhoons, hurricanes or what have you.

However, it would be interesting to see what would happen if all the non-smoking employees decided to do this, wouldn’t it?