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November 20, 2008


Chris - Manager's Sandbox

Of course smoke-free workplaces don't encourage people to quit. What incentive is there at all for an employee to stop? Because they have to walk an extra 20 feet to smoke off company grounds?

Marsha Keeffer

I think this is going to be something that companies take a look at when trying to reduce their high cost of health insurance. Smokers skew the pool and cost more to cover. At some point, that will probably be passed on - if it isn't now.

Tanya @ Recess

Honestly the real cost of smokers in the near term anyway is the productivity and absenteeism. Research shows that smokers and drinkers tend to spend less time worrying about their health across the board and so may not visit the doctor when sick. Thing is, 1 in 3 smokers will eventually find an easy way to quit smoking. They will die. And the dying usually doesn't happen overnight. Thing is that between 20 smoke breaks per day (now with the extra time tacked on to walk that 20 feet, which, is only a small barrier for someone truly addicted) and the increased susceptibility to colds and respiratory diseases you get those four extra sick days. This is not to mention the sick days they will have to take on behalf of their children if those children are exposed routinely to second hand smoke. So most employers are going to take the biggest hit on smoking as a product of absenteeism and then later if the smoker's health seriously deteriorates, as a medical claim cost.


Chris/Marsha -

Thanks for stopping by - good thoughts...

Tanya - Way to get me back on the cessation groove. Dying is later, so If I want ROI, I have to look for absenteeism and productivity... Make for a good post at the new blog...

Jason Seiden

I once worked for a smoker. I'd head down the dumpster behind our building once or twice a day during his smoke break... and wouldn't you know it, but we got a ton done in those 10 minutes (including the elevator ride). It was uninterputed time, away from the office, and in 10 minutes we could vent, joke, prioritize, and come up with plans of action.

Of course, that was not the norm, but I do think that as smoking goes the way of the dinosaur, that we at least recognize that for some people, a smoke break represented more than the cigarette... and that on some level, for some people, it had value, too.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to run downstairs and take a deep breath break.

Michael Moore


The ADA Amendments Act will require employers to retool thinking on disabilities. Get over thinking about whether the condition is a covered disability and start evaluating accommodations. Addictions like nicotine and alcoholism are good because they reorient thinking. Employers don't necessarily need to abrogate their work rules as an accommodation. If you don't allow other employees to smoke and drink at work based on the obvious effects on other employees, then you don't need to change your rules. You can also uniformly enforce your other rules on productivity, attendance and break times. However, other accommodations like time off for treatment, cessation programs, etc. need to be considered. The importance is engaging in the "interactive process" to determine whether an accommodation might enable to person to meet the essential functions of the job. Skipping the process because you don't think someone is disabled will likely cause legal problems. Just wait for claims based on chionophobia (excusing you from driving to work in the snow), perfume sensitivity (making HR the fragrance police), or seasonal adjustment disorder (necessitating a window in your cubical). Don't waste a lot of time arguing whether these conditions are disabilities. Start evaluating alternatives to the requested accomodations.

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