A number of companies have taken steps towards forming a healthier and smoke-free workforce. Companies may drastically vary in their health programs and expectations, but nonetheless there is a national trend of employers desiring healthier employees.
According to a heavily cited report by ActionToQuit, there are some startling facts which may prompt employers to develop smoke- or tobacco-free policies. For example, the majority of secondhand smoke occurs not just in homes but in workplaces. Such exposure increases the chance of developing heart disease and lung cancer by up to 30%. Otherwise healthy employees who do not smoke employees are put at an unnecessary health-risk. Many people find the smell of cigarattes unappealing, so while employees are at a greater health-risk in their workplace, their mood may also be negatively impacted.
According to an American Productivity Audit of the U.S. workforce, “tobacco is the leading contributor to worker lost production time.” More productivity is lost to the use of tobacco than alcohol, “family emergencies, age, or education.” The lost productivity of a smoker amounts to $4,430/year while it amounts to $2,623/year for nonsmokers. That is, if an employer just wants to address quantify the issue they can just look at these startling numbers. Consider the impact these costs have on growing businesses! In addition to this lost productivity, it should also be noted that smokers have increased rates of absenteeism. “Research has shown that smokers take almost eight days more of sick leave” compared to non-smokers.
Yet despite all of this information, smoke-free programs are not offered by many companies. 40% of employers prohibit smoking on company property, and only shocking 19% of employers have offered programs to help employees quit their use of tobacco.
Navistar, an international truck and engine corporation, introduced a policy to sway smokers away from tobacco. They offered smokers a health plan featuring individual counseling, telephonic counseling, group programs, and self-help programs. The health plan also covered prescription as well as over-the-counter medications, and employees could also be suggested external tobacco/smoking cessation services beyond the medical plan. As an incentive to pursue a healthier lifestyle, Navistar non-smokers pay $50 less per month in health care premiums.
If you are a business looking to implement a tobacco- or smoke-free work environment, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention raises some important questions for employers to consider while implementing a tobacco-related company policy.
- “Does the policy apply to only smoking or to the use of any tobacco product?”
- “What tobacco use cessation services will the organization offer to employees and through what channels?”
- “Does the policy apply to contractors, fellows, clients, patients, visitors, and other nonemployees, or only to employees?”
- “Who will evaluate the communication strategies [and] what data should be collected and kept?”
The CDC urges that a company create a supportive environment and
“work closely with building management personnel to establish a campus environment that conveys a consistent tobacco-free message. This includes removing smoking shelters and cigarette butt receptacles and installing signage. If possible, have the signs in place by the time the policy goes into effect. The signs should be placed at all vehicle and pedestrian entrances in order to notify employees and visitors that they are entering a tobacco-free campus.”
Smoke-free and tobacco-free environments yield benefits for everyone involved. It makes both common and business sense. Employers save money and smokers and their co-workers enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Healthy employees make a healthy business.
Image courtesy of machechyp on Flickr Creative Commons.