For years, my office was either at the produce prep sink and/or in the back of the store. I began to notice that some employees would go outside for a few minutes to smoke. There was something inherently unfair about this, so I told them they needed to punch out for smoke breaks.
Back then, I was in charge of payroll- and it wasn’t automated. I had to calculate everyone’s weekly hours by calculator. Suddenly, calculating payroll was taking much longer, as some employees had 10+ “shifts” per day from all of their smoke breaks. I felt like I was chasing my tail with this issue.
A recent study done by the British Medical Journal’s Tobacco Control suggests that smokers cost a company $5,816 per year due to costs of on-the-clock smoke breaks, excess healthcare, excess absenteeism, productivity loss due to withdrawal symptoms, and a disruption of focus and project momentum during numerous breaks. But there’s more, which makes me think that the hidden cost is even higher than $5,816…
I’ve found that morale plummeted in stores where our management smoked. Employees lost respect for supervisors who were smoking instead of working. They felt that others who smoked with (or without) the managers got special treatment. The smokers were sometimes out of earshot of our paging system, so they weren’t able to help in a pinch. This left the non-smokers to fend for themselves no matter how urgently help was needed.
Sometimes smokers would come off break and smell like smoke. Not a pleasant experience for any customer.
Employees seen smoking by customers was terrible for our image. Back in 1987 right before I started MOM’s (then called Organic Foods Express), I used to work at Organic Farms Inc. It was an organic produce distributor open to the public on weekends. I remember customers whispering the dirty little secret about Organic Farms- the owner smoked cigarettes. This led them to believe he wasn’t committed to health and organic foods.
People have the right to be wrong, hurt themselves, and make mistakes. These things are a normal part of the human experience (and a free society). But, as the old saying goes- “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”