Smoking cessation improves attendance, productivity & employee wellbeing

A study some years ago by researchers at the University of Nottingham reported that smokers are 33% more likely to miss work than non-smokers and this trend has led to smokers missing, on average, 2.7 working days more per year than non-smokers.

In total, in 2014 absenteeism caused by smoking cost the UK £2 bn with both long and short term illnesses attributed to smoking. This figure also includes presenteeism caused by unproductive time spent ‘craving’ cigarettes, time lost to smoking breaks and even costs of smoking-related fire damage. Everybody knows smoking is bad for you. It’s clear that it is also bad for business so many employers are now supporting employees to quit.

Why sponsor smoking cessation in the workplace?

Pfizer conducted a study that found that 29% of employees across the EU smoke. Of those, 65% want to stop. 48% of smokers felt that their employers should help them to quit.

Given the impact smoking has on absenteeism and productivity alone, it makes sense for employers to promote smoking cessation schemes. Companies have a lot to gain financially and showing the employees you care can also give an added aspect of loyalty and employee engagement.

There are two main reasons why work-based cessation schemes have proven successful:

  1. Flexibility/Access: If the scheme fits in with the working day, employees are much more likely to be able to take it up. Providing on-site visits or group visits to local health centres, makes the schemes more accessible. This goes for any type of health care, not only smoking cessation.
  2.  Peer-support: If the scheme is widely marketed at work, more people are likely to join. This can create a sense of camaraderie and even a sense of community and friendship. Quitting together could relieve the pressure of quitting and alleviate any tension felt in the office.

The benefits of creating any kind of community feeling within the work place are measured in increased productivity, a decrease in presenteeism and more effective communication as people begin to know and understand each other more.

It doesn’t have to be expensive:

Explore options for funding from government schemes and even insurance providers. Choosing the right scheme can also save you money, for example:

  • Internet-based schemes are great for office-based staff and cost very little
  • Signing up to national or regional cessation schemes usually have low membership fees with great access to many free resources
  • ‘In-house’ schemes are slightly more costly but because they’re usually very effective, the benefits outweigh the costs. You may be able to get funding via umbrella organisations, as mentioned above.

When people stop smoking and the health benefits are felt, it will spur them on to get healthy in other ways too. Light exercise or dietary changes will further improve their overall wellbeing, productivity and attendance.

If you need help setting up a smoking cessation scheme, the Global Smoke Free Partnership provides an online checklist for what’s most important in helping employees to quit.

To track smoking related absence in your workplace, sign up to the FREE 30-day trial of Engage!