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Hiring Advice Engaging your workforce 3 Ways to Better Manage Smokers
3 Ways to Better Manage Smokers

3 Ways to Better Manage Smokers

The age-old question that has always been asked is how organizations can deal with the potential problems caused by hiring smokers. One simple way of dealing with this issue can be by simply refusing to hire smokers or imposing a ban on cigarette breaks during work hours.

However, such a policy will not only discourage talented employees and make employee retention a headache but could also expose the organization to workplace discrimination lawsuits. Hence, organizations need to employ a more constructive approach to dealing with this issue. Here are 3 ways of managing smokers within the workplace.

1) Having the Right Culture

Rather than implementing draconian HR policies that discriminate against smokers, HR professionals instead need to focus their efforts on implementing a high-performance, results based workplace culture as a means to boost productivity.

Although banning cigarette breaks and refusing to hire smokers may be perceived as effective tools in the fight to improve workplace efficiency, such measures on the long run will only be seen as counter-productive and outdated. This is because, having such discriminatory policies will only serve to discourage potentially valuable employees and alienate existing employees within the organization.

Rather than adopting discriminatory hiring practices and targeting specific employees, the HR professionals and members of the management team should encourage a workplace culture which is built on team work, inclusiveness and an emphasis on performance.

An example would be getting team members to meet their team team leaders on a weekly basis and discuss about goals, achievements and improvements. Progress can be displayed on notice boards / emails / department monthly meetings. This will encourage a healthy sense of competition between team members.

This close-knit environment not only fosters closer relationships between employees but has the added effect of peer pressure which forces smokers to discipline themselves in order to fit in with the organization’s culture. In essence, this means that smokers are less likely to take excessive smoke breaks as they would be deemed to be not acting in the best interests of their team.

2) Designated Smoking Areas

One of the main reasons why employers have adopted such a hard line stance on smoking is the potential costs to the organization. Firstly, employees with a smoking habit tend to live unhealthier lifestyles which put them at risk of falling victim to heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.  Secondly, most non-smokers are upset by the smell of cigarette smoke and can also fall sick due to the effects of second-hand smoke.

However, banning and discriminating smokers outright is not the answer. In a day and age where most businesses are viewed as money grabbing entities with little to no regard for the welfare of their employees, adopting discriminatory hiring policies could prove to be disastrous for the organization’s image, both internally and externally.

In a time where employees are spending more and more time in the workplace, a more beneficial approach to managing smokers would be to motivate them to live healthier lifestyles. Instead of initiating a blanket ban on smoking in the workplace, designated smoking areas should be placed a fair distance away from the work area thus making it a hassle for employees looking to have a cigarette.

Also, designated smoking areas can be used to display various public service announcements which denote the hazards of cigarette smoke and health risks. Particularly, graphic or disturbing anti-smoking ads have been effective in deterring smokers as can be seen from research conducted by the Tobacco Free Florida foundation. Because, let's face it nobody likes to see graphic cigarette ads such as these:



3) Providing Incentives

As mentioned previously, rather than outright discriminating against smokers, organizations instead should take a more holistic approach towards managing smokers. Instead of alienating unhealthy employees, GE opted to motivate their employees to give up smoking entirely by paying out cash bonuses to employees who successfully quit smoking for a period of 1 year. The program was broken up into three segments, with the first segment paying out $100 to employees who joined a smoking cessation program, next a further $250 was paid to employees who stopped smoking for a period of 6 months and finally a further $400 was paid to employees who abstained from smoking.

Studies have shown that employees that participated in this program were 3.28 times more likely to quit smoking than other participants. As can be seen, this program not only has the benefit of encouraging employees to live healthier lifestyles but is also a great recruitment campaign for the organization. By promoting itself as an organization that emphasizes the welfare of its employees and a great place to work, GE is able to attract some of the most talented candidates in the world.

As can be seen from the examples above, adopting a more holistic approach towards managing smokers is the way forward for organizations. By adopting an approach which works towards improving the general welfare of employees and having a better work culture, organizations stand to gain much more on the long-term.

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