Let’s blame the smoker – Nottinghamshire County Council’s “great” idea

jsb_zps5af72910Nottinghamshire County Council has announced an intention to ban smoking for its employee’s during work time.  Its aim is to improve workers health (isn’t that nice of them), reduce sickness (not sure how that works, people can smoke at home & are they going to ban drinking for employee’s when they are off work just so that they don’t have a self-inflicted sick day?) also, they say their idea intends to increase time working – and now I think we get to the real reason, once we get past any faux concern about workers health.  More hours for the same money.

Before the age old “smokers get extra breaks” is given, spend a little time considering what’s been taken away here.  Do you think that if the smoke break is banned, the council will be happy with people instead taking 5 minutes to stand outside and inhale fresh air (in the name of healthy living), or is this more than just a ban on an easy target?

This is what the ITV is currently reporting.

Nottinghamshire County Council has said its 9,000 employees will be barred from smoking during work time with the ban extending to e-cigarettes, in the mooted plans.

Anyone who fails to stick to the rules could face internal disciplinary action.

Source: ITV

So lets consider this.  Its very fair to say that someone who smokes could end up having more breaks during the day than someone who doesn’t.  That’s not always the case, but that’s the point some people make.  The issue here though is that instead of cutting things out and taking away – something which many other workers in many other industries are privy to, the consideration should be for ensuring smokers and non-smokers get the same amount of breaks.

I believe this new scheme is more about something we see increasingly in the workplace – getting more out of the worker for less.  How many people can say that they are not doing far more for the same wage now as compared to a few years ago?

I think the people who develop these schemes or ideas are not particularly bright, because if they were they would realize that a happy workforce is a productive one. Or maybe they are bright and this an attempt to erode another freedom of a worker whilst spreading a faux message of concern for health?  You can work someone all the hours under the sun, but if they are not happy in the workplace, they won’t be as productive as a happy worker.  That doesn’t just apply smokers, that’s everyone in the workplace.  Here is the catch, since the world works on figures and what’s claimed on paper without regard to what people are actually doing, then a claim of lack of performance after your break has been taken away will be met with a visit to the job centre for you – after all there are plenty of people lining up to do your job.

We also have to consider what this could lead to.  Its a slippery slope from here on in.  Once the smoke break is gone, what’s to stop a quick break for a coffee being met with a line manager saying “Wait until lunchtime, the smokers don’t have a cigarette break”  Coffee, like tobacco is not essential to life.  You can have a water bottle on your desk and have your coffee in your lunch break.

Since Nottingham Council are concerned on the health of their workers, are they also going to ensure that the recommended practice for computer users (a break every 60 mins) is enforced with line managers responsible for those missing a break away from the screen?  There are a whole set of recommendations for healthy computer use which are agreed upon by many people, are the council going to ensure workers have these?  If they are so concerned about health then I’m sure they will.

I don’t think this is anything less than a removal of a break which whilst has health issues (and subject to laws as to where you can smoke) I’d suggest contributes to a happy worker – as does any break for a member of staff.  Smoking is always an easy target, but lets also then look at coffee and tea.  These are not essential for life either.

Maybe the council actually wants to get rid of smokers completely from its workplace?  Maybe it sees a non-smoker as being that extra bit value for money?  The argument about productivity and lost hours doesn’t cut it.  50 years ago when smoking was far more common, did industry and society grind to a halt because of a smoke break?  Of course it didn’t, so why are people trying to “fix” things now when smoker numbers are reduced.

Do you have a job in front of a terminal?  Lets get rid of the lunch break.  You can eat a sandwich whilst working.  Better yet, get a laptop with WIFI and you can continue working whilst you take a toilet break.  This may sound far fetched but with a banning of a break is a slippery slope.

A cigarette may not be written into your contract, but its part of a productive, happy environment at work, not so much the cigarette itself, but the fact that people are able to take a break.

Lets keep the break and merely ensure that everyone gets the same treatment in the workplace.

Tim Wilson


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