Thankfully, smoking inside the office went out of fashion years ago, but now that many people are working from home, can you ban smoking at home during business hours?
The largest Japanese brokerage firm, Nomura, implemented a new policy prohibiting employees from smoking during the workday, even when they are working from home.
According to the Financial Times, some employees feel like this is an attempt to get rid of smoking breaks. But, whatever the reason, it’s super weird and super intrusive. But, could you do it with your business in the US?
To keep reading, click here: Ban Smoking at the Office? Check. Ban Smoking at Home? Wait, What?
11 thoughts on “Ban Smoking at the Office? Check. Ban Smoking at Home? Wait, What?”
I agree that this is going too far. Most people who are working from home have desk jobs, at which they can sit and smoke while working, just like a lot of employees did before workplaces became non-smoking. Back then, there were no such things as “smoke breaks” for office workers, because there was no need to leave ones workstation to smoke. I’m a non-smoker, have lost immediate family members to smoking-related illnesses, and wish every smoker could/would quit. But, in the meantime, if employees are going to have to provide their own workplaces, they should — at least — maintain a modicum of control over activities there that have little to no impact on their job performance.
It’s interesting that the article doesn’t specify tobacco smoking. What about medical cannabis? That makes the situation extra sticky. Is the intent of the restriction to reduce breaks from work, or to force the employee to reduce their tobacco habit? If it is about the tobacco habit, then it doesn’t account for people who chew tobacco. Or is the intent to police anything that goes into people’s lungs?
What’s the difference in the “tobacco habit” between those who smoke and chew? Both are habit-forming and addictive.
Yes, that was the question I was pondering. If a company wants to eliminate tobacco then they should restrict all tobacco, not just restrict smoking. Companies should just come out and say it if they want to have a tobacco free workforce. By eliminating smoking, they will drive some to quit smoking, but others will go to alternatives such as chew.
It all depends on the company’s motivation. If it is about healthcare costs, then moving employees from smoking to chewing isn’t going to help. If it’s about PR, then they can get a nice article by just eliminating smoking. But it could also be about a megalomaniac CEO that wants to feel like they are controlling employees in their own homes. If that’s the case, then the CEO is getting their high just by making the rule.
But, obviously, smoking in the workplace affects others, due to second-hand smoke. Chewing at work doesn’t present the same risk to coworkers. Working from home, there is zero health risk to coworkers. Both practices, obviously, affect healthcare costs, absenteeism, etc.
One reason I got “into computers” (back in the age of mainframes): all work areas were air conditioned and smoke-free.
I decided that I too was a “delicate computing device” deserving such pampering.
Smoke is really not great for electronics as well as your body (disclaimer: I used to smoke, though always outside). So I can kinda see them asking you not to do it around company electronics, although if you smoke inside, it does get everywhere. Other than taking proper care of the equipment they’ve furnished, I would be very leery of working for someone who tried to dictate this, because where does it end?
I quit smoking in 2007 with the help of my employer. Encouraging and supporting employees to quit would be a far better place for companies to concentrate their efforts than trying to police private space.
I remember that lesson from the very beginning of my IT career when people still smoked in the office. I learned pretty quickly to diagnose from the visible furriness on a smoker’s computer fan intake whether there was any hope left for their hard drive. But honestly, that should be the only reason for concern about smoking at home. Why not ask smokers to take a break away from company equipment, and while you’re at it, encourage breaks for nonsmokers too? American workers hardly ever get enough breaks to keep their minds refreshed and productive anyway. The idea that productivity can be maintained by enforcing unbroken hours pounding on the keyboard is silly.
There’s been an increased push over the past few years for employers to try to influence the lives of their employees. Ostensibly this comes from a desire to keep their employees healthy and safe–that’s literally OSHA’s job, and they’ve realized that what we do at home affects our ability to be safe at work.
On the one hand, it make sense. An employee that’s injured doing home repairs is no less incapacitated than one injured on a jobsite–it’s not a recordable, but it’s still hurting your business. And it’s nice to see employers take the view that humans have certain needs, and to at least pay lip service to the idea that we should care about that.
On the other hand, there are a lot of petty dictators who enjoy exercising power over others, and this is a perfect opportunity for them to control their employees when they’re off the clock. We have enough of that as it is–just look at what happens if you post something the employer doesn’t like on social media! Now my employer gets to dictate how much I exercise, what I do to relax, how much screen time my kids get, and how my spouse interacts with strangers at a grocery store? (Note that all of those are things that my employer or my wife’s have tried.) At a certain point it crosses a line from “We care about you” to “We own you”.
How does an employer “[get] to dictate how much I exercise, what I do to relax, how much screen time my kids get, and how my spouse interacts with strangers at a grocery store”?
I’ve seen companies attempt to “encourage” employees to participate in exercise and weight loss programs. The “what I do to relax” is self-evident–the original post is an example (many smokers do so to relax). I’ve also seen companies “encourage” parents to follow specific guidelines about screen time with children, along with other advice on childcare. And before anyone says it, yes, I get that encouragement isn’t forcing you to do anything. I also am not naive enough to think that a manager can’t punish you for not participating–I’ve seen too many people fired for “not being a team player” to have any delusions on this count. And like I said, while many of these come from good intentions and good managers can institute these programs in ways that are beneficial to both the company and the employees, the combination of a company encouraging off-hours behavior and a petty or overbearing manager results in the employees basically not having personal lives.
As for the grocery store thing, my wife’s employer has fired people for jokes the boss overheard an employee’s spouse make to strangers while shopping. It apparently didn’t present the proper moral behavior they expected from employees (she’s a public school teacher). This caused a significant fight between my wife and me–I flat-out refuse to police my behavior to ensure it complies with the expectations of someone I have no relationship with (and which I have no reasonable expectation of knowing), and my wife took offense to that. My view is, if someone’s going to fire you because someone else made a bad joke, they’re looking for an excuse to get rid of you and you should be looking for a new employer anyway.
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