Productivity goes up in smoke

by 30 Sep 2008

THE ESTIMATED cost to employ a smoker is $5000 a year more than a non-smoker as a result of reduced productivity and increased absenteeism, and companies often overlook this fact because it is not a tangible cost that is visible on the bottom line, according to a quit-smoking expert.

Given a choice, most companies would prefer not to employ smokers, said Natalie Clays, director of Allen Carr’s Easyway.

“They’re less productive, take more sick leave, are more expensive to insure and not good for the company’s image. It might not be written in their HR policy documents, but off the record the trend is there,” she said.

“As smoking rates decline and it becomes less acceptable and less the norm, there’s been an increase in the number of companies introducing a complete ban on their premises.”

Most companies would be happy to help their employees quit smoking, but don’t know how to and are poorly served by conventional quit-smoking methods, which typically offer a success rate of less than 10 per cent, according to Clays.

Jon Butcher, managing director of IT recruitment agency IT Matters, estimated that the company loses at least 1 hour out of every day for every smoker’s habit.

“In an effort to crack down on the number of smoke breaks people were taking, we implemented two 10-minute smoke breaks at 11am and 3.30pm, which helped reduce the amount of breaks taken throughout the day,”Butcher said.

“We then found that people would spend longer on these breaks trying to cram as much nicotine into their system as possible and, therefore, spend just as much time away from their desks as they did before.”

Butcher, who encourages smokers to go on Allen Carr’s Easyway course, said that in addition to more time on the job, attendance rates have significantly improved among new non-smokers.

“People who quit smoking are more inclined to take up some form of exercise to complement their new healthier lifestyle and, as a result, are happier, healthier and generally more energetic, leading them to be more productive,” he said.

“Our sales team is visibly more energetic, which has helped increase our results.”


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