Taking Breaks: are smokers examples of model employees?
Ivan L. Gee, Senior Leturer in Public Health,
August 20, 2013
NOT PEER REVIEWED The article by Berman et al "Estimating the cost of a smoking employee" has attempted to quantify the costs associated with employing smokers. As the article indicates several companies are now actively discriminating against smokers so it is important that any costs are fully justified. One area that concerns me about this is a tendency towards oversimplification of a complex situation. In particular the assumption that the breaks a smoker takes from work are a cost to the employer. Clearly a smoking break is time away from workplace tasks, but the assumption that this is just about time at the desk ignores a growing body of evidence that taking regular breaks from work is beneficial to individual health (1), which might counter some of the negative health risks associated with smoking, and that breaks are also beneficial to workplace productivity. Research has suggested that people taking regular breaks are more creative, more focussed and ultimately more productive (2,3). Prolonged attention to an individual task has, somewhat counter-intuitively, been shown to hinder performance. Taking a break from the task improves overall focus (2). Similarly breaks that have a positive association for the person taking the break are linked to positive performance effects and lower levels of negative emotions (3). All of this suggests that smokers taking breaks might actually increase their performance and benefit employers. Not taking such effects into account is potentially unfair to smokers and also risks breaks being associated by employers with negative effects for all of us. References: 1) Levene: http://dx.doi.org/10.2337%2Fdb10-1042 2) Ariga: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2010.12.007 3) Trougakos: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/S1479-3555(2009)0000007005
Conflict of Interest:
Conflict of Interest