Do you allow smoke breaks?

Let’s break down the anatomy of a Smoke Break:

Step 1: Gathering of smoke related materials to go on break (20-30 seconds)

Step 2: Decision to go on break commando, or alert smoke friend you’re going on break (10-45 seconds)

Step 3: Travel time to proper Smoke Break destination (1-2 minutes)

Step 4: Consuming cancer stick (3-4 minutes) – which includes conversation with cancer buddies

Step 5: Travel time back to work area (1-2 minutes)

Step 6: Settling back in to get on task (1 -2 minutes)

Total estimated Smoke Break time: 10 minutes

Multiply Smoke Break time by 6 = 1 hour per day for Smoking, that you’re paying for. 5 hours per week. Let’s say 49 weeks per year.  Average wage $20/hr = $4,900 you are paying someone in your environment to Smoke.  (FYI – this does not include the cost of your insurance going up as well for poor health)

Just so we are clear – I add this into our Total Compensation Statements for our Smokers!   It’s a great benefit – I list it under “Recess”.

So, not to make my non-smoking employees upset by this total disregard for company resources – I let each non-smoking employee have an hour of ‘recess’ each day!  What is ‘recess’ – it’s when you see Janie over by someones cube talking about Dancing with Stars for 20 minutes – that’s 20 minutes of ‘recess’!  Now, if Janie is a smoker – and she’s taking ‘recess’ on top of her smoking break – Janie gets fired.  Janie is using her ‘recess’ to smoke – she doesn’t get additional ‘recess’.

Sounds crazy right?

Here’s what I know – every single one of your non-smoking employees – looks at this situation, exactly like I describe it above – but maybe in less colorful terms.  “Why does Janie get to take an hour of her day off to smoke, and get paid, while I continue to sit here an work?”  Why do we as leaders and HR Pros allow this to happen?  We don’t legally have to allow people to take a smoking break – heck – we can fire them for taking a smoking break. Would you allow an employee to take an hour out of their day to play with a loaded gun in the parking lot?  Why not?  What’s the difference?

As a leader and HR Pro I know smoking is bad.  I know it costs me the health of my employees, increases in health insurances and that my non-smoking employees hate that I allow this.  So, why do I allow it?  You’re going to love this answer!  Because – ‘we always have’.  That’s why.  And it’s stupid.

So, do you allow Smoke Breaks? Why? (and please don’t comment about ‘life choices’)


8 thoughts on “Do you allow smoke breaks?

  1. I agree with one thing, it does sound crazy and also petty. Do you monitor those who spend hours browsing the internet, sitting in someone’s office chatting, reading, doing personal calls, etc.? Do you even ask yourself if some of those smokers come in early or leave late to cover those smoke breaks? What about their productivity, ethics, etc.?

    Just to be clear, I am a smoker who came in an hour early every day to cover any time where I may want to go for a smoke break. The reality, if we totaled up my time the company would owe me.

    If you want someone who will only charge for the actual hours worked, then look at hiring a Virtual Assistant.

  2. You are, of course, making the bold assumption that people are only ‘productive’ while at their place of work (desk?) Tim, this isn’t controversial, it’s just old school ‘command and control’ thinking that’s long past its best before date. It’s also the sort of thinking that makes HR look petty, trivial and lame.

  3. And do they get chocolate milk and cookies during their nap times? Unless you’re clocking in and out – who the hell cares. Smoker or non-smoker – take a few minutes here and there to clear your head and then go back to work. If someone took 20 minutes to walk twice a day would you be upset? Hey – they may be lowering you health care costs.

    As long as we treat them like children the will act like children. If someone abuses the privilege of being treated like an adult the fire their butt.

    I would hope management has bigger issues.

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