Article Text

Impact of smoking status on workplace absenteeism and productivity
  1. Michael T Halperna,
  2. Richard Shikiarb,
  3. Anne M Rentzb,
  4. Zeba M Khanc
  1. aCharles River Associates, Washington DC, USA, bMEDTAP International, Bethesda, Maryland and Seattle, Washington, USA, cGlaxoSmithKline, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  1. Dr Michael T Halpern, Charles River Associates, 1201 F Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington DC 20004, USAmhalpern{at}


OBJECTIVES To: evaluate the impact of smoking status on objective productivity and absenteeism measures; evaluate the impact of smoking status on subjective measures of productivity; and assess the correlation between subjective and objective productivity measures.

DESIGN Prospective cohort study in a workplace environment.

SUBJECTS Approximately 300 employees (100 each of former, current, and never smokers) at a reservation office of a large US airline.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Objective productivity and absenteeism data were supplied by the employer. Subjective assessments of productivity were collected using a self report instrument, the Health and Work Questionnaire (HWQ).

RESULTS Current smokers had significantly greater absenteeism than did never smokers, with former smokers having intermediate values; among former smokers, absenteeism showed a significant decline with years following cessation. Former smokers showed an increase in seven of 10 objective productivity measures as compared to current smokers, with a mean increase of 4.5%. While objective productivity measures for former smokers decreased compared to measures for current smokers during the first year following cessation, values for former smokers were greater than those for current smokers by 1–4 years following cessation. Subjective assessments of “productivity evaluation by others” and “personal life satisfaction” showed significant trends with highest values for never smokers, lowest for current smokers, and intermediate for former smokers.

CONCLUSIONS Workplace productivity is increased and absenteeism is decreased among former smokers as compared to current smokers. Productivity among former smokers increases over time toward values seen among never smokers. Subjective measures of productivity provide indications of novel ways of productivity assessment that are sensitive to smoking status.

  • smoking cessation
  • workplace
  • absenteeism
  • productivity
  • questionnaires

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Supplementary materials

  • Additional material for:

    Impact of smoking status on workplace absenteeism and productivity
    Michael T Halpern, Richard Shikiar, Anne M Rentz, Zeba M Khan


    The Health and Work Questionnaire (HWQ) (available here as a downloadable pdf file) was used by Halpern et al to subjectively assess the impact of smoking status on workplace productivity. The HWQ was developed to assess various aspects of productivity without completely relying on direct subjective estimation. Unlike other productivity assessment tools, the HWQ was designed to be a multidimensional measure of productivity. The HWQ consists of 24 questions, several of which were multi-part questions, comprising six subscales. All items have a ten-point response scale, tailored to each question (e.g. "very dissatisfied" to "very satisfied" for questions dealing with work satisfaction; "my worst ever" to "my best ever" for questions dealing with rating quantity, quality, and efficiency of work). Additional details regarding the HWQ are presented in the Halpern et al. paper. Copyright of the HWQ is owned by the GlaxoSmithKline Group of Companies (Copyright 2000).

    Please note that the contact details of the corresponding author for this article have now changed.  Dr Halpern can now be contacted at:

    Michael T. Halpern, M.D., Ph.D.
    Principal Scientist, Health Group
    Exponent, Inc.
    310 Montgomery St.
    Alexandria, VA  22314
    Tel: (703) 518-2641
    Fax: (703) 549-4225
    E-mail: mhalpern{at}