Non-smoking office workers believe ‘additional’ breaks for smoking colleagues are unfair

smoking breaks

Most office-based employers, regardless of their industry, have a number of workers who smoke.

Their tendency to smoke will often be used as a coping mechanism to handle work-related stress and pressures. Many employers therefore willingly allow workers who smoke to do so whenever they get the urge. Whilst it may seem like a satisfactory arrangement, workers who don’t smoke may feel otherwise.

A study on behalf of the British Heart Foundation astoundingly revealed that smokers disappear up to four times a day for a duration of ten minutes each. The same study also found that smoking breaks cost employers an astronomical £1,815 a year for each full-time employee who regularly puffs away during working hours. decided to find out what non-smoking office workers across a range of industries really think and feel about their colleagues who smoke.

A survey of non-smoking office workers from across the country revealed that 66 per cent believe it is unfair that their colleagues who smoke take ‘additional’ breaks throughout the day. Furthermore, 58 per cent of non-smoking office workers think that those who smoke during normal working hours should be made to ‘clock’ or ‘record’ their smoking breaks and 44 per cent of non-smoking office workers citied smoking breaks as being commonly ‘disruptive’, especially when working together in teams.

Clearly being of a concern, 30 per cent of non-smoking office workers admitted to formally or informally complaining to seniors about how often and long smoking breaks are taken for.

Jordan, a Senior Finance Analyst from London said: “The financial world, just like many other industries, is fast-paced. The expectation to adapt and deliver favourable results is consistently high. Stress therefore naturally creeps in. To cope with the stress, many of my fellow colleague’s smoke – some more than others. For me it’s not a huge problem but I feel the constant smoking breaks disrupts the flow of work. With multiple team projects to deliver under tight deadlines, it becomes difficult to properly discuss and coordinate different aspects when individuals are nipping in and out to have a smoking break during actual working hours. So, in that respect, it does eventually become annoying”.

Samantha, a Human Resource Assistant from Bristol said: “I understand that many of my colleague’s smoke to gain relief from the everyday pressures of work. They take numerous smoking breaks throughout the day, which usually last between 10 to 15 minutes each. This is on top of breaks already provided and it’s unfair on those who don’t
smoke. Essentially, it feels like we are working more, with less breaks than those who smoke. I believe that companies need to actively enforce a fair cap on the duration of smoking breaks to limit excessive disruption and wasted hours during working hours”.

Damien, Co-founder and Managing Director of a Digital Marketing Agency in Birmingham commented: “Initially when we started out, there were a few of our non-smoking employees who did complain about the number of breaks their colleagues who smoked where taking. They were irritated by the fact that that they could go for a puff whenever they wanted. It’s when I received their complaints, that I did really see their point of view. By allowing these breaks, we were effectively reducing the working hours for those employees who smoked whilst maintaining normal working hours for the rest. To address the situation, we decided to introduce two ten minute breaks on either side of the
lunch hour for all the employees. These uninterrupted breaks have worked fantastically well for the smokers as well as non-smokers. It’s created a fair system and I would recommend the same or similar concept to all companies facing the same dilemmas”