How to stop quick smoke breaks


How do you stop employees from stepping out for a "quick" smoke break?

More than one-quarter of employees in the United States are smokers, according to the 2007 National Health Interview survey. That's a lot of time spent puffing. But recouping those lost minutes isn't as simple as banning smoking from the hospital grounds—which you can do if you consistently apply the policy to staff and clients alike. Smokers can just cross the street and light up, making their breaks last even longer.

"Because most team members simply take a break when they need one, perhaps the most frustrating challenge for hospital leaders is the productivity lost to smoke breaks," says Phil Seibert, CVT, a consultant with SafetyVet in Calhoun, Tenn. "Many large companies that banned smoking in their buildings years ago have reversed their decisions and created indoor smoking areas in an attempt to recapture some of that lost work time."

Phil Seibert

Of course, this doesn't mean you have to turn Exam Room 3 into a smoker's lounge, which may be illegal in your state. Instead, Seibert says you should institute a policy that outlines the specific times when employees are allowed to take five, whether indoors or out. "Be sure that your policy is for all breaks and meals, not just smoke breaks," he says. "And make sure it's uniformly applied to all employees."

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