As employers, we all want our employees to be healthy, happy and productive—and it’s common knowledge that smoking does not contribute to any of these things.
But a recent study shines a different light on the issue: Employees who smoke are more expensive. In fact, they cost employers upwards of $6,000 more per year than employees who don’t smoke.
There are two main reasons for this. First, smokers need more healthcare, which drives up group insurance premiums. Second, smokers generally take more breaks throughout the day and have lower energy levels than non-smokers. This leads to a loss of productivity overall.
So how do you, as an employer, address this problem? Are you aware of the smoking cessation options offered by your health insurance plan? Are there other ways to educate and incentivize your employees to make an effort to leave tobacco behind?
Educate employees on available options
Make sure your employees know about any smoking cessation resources that are available for free as a part of their health insurance program. It’s surprising how many smokers do not take advantage of these resources simply because they do not know about them.
Don’t be judgmental
People are used to hearing about how bad smoking is for them, and how important it is to quit. Many smokers also develop feelings of being persecuted or judged for their habit. As an employer, you don’t want to play into this. Instead, you want to convey a sense of optimism, support and understanding. Don’t apply pressure or pass judgement. Let them know there are supports in place to help them quit if and when they’re ready.
Once an employee has made the decision to take advantage of the support being offered, and make a real effort to quit, it’s especially important to be sensitive and understanding as they make a concentrated effort to quit smoking. It’s statistically proven that most smokers actually want to quit. It’s also proven that most smokers make several attempts before they’re able to quit successfully.
Offer clear incentives
Did you know that in most cases, it’s not illegal to provide employees with extra incentives (even cash bonuses) to quit smoking? A recent student in the New England Journal of Health & Medicine found that employees who were given financial incentives to quit were more successful in doing so. Try framing it as a contest—many employers have had success with this approach.
Ban smoking outside
Making it more difficult to smoke may not be a popular option with those employees who do light up, but let’s be clear—the point is not simply to make things harder for them. Smoking around the building can lead to second-hand smoke problems, unsightly ashes and cigarette butts, and an overall detraction from the appearance of professionalism. None of these things are good for business. If you share a building with other tenants, consider getting together to create a more outwardly smoke free environment. Add tobacco free signage and remove smoking triggers like shelters and bins. Different States allow employers to take different measures when it comes to smoking bans. Understand what you’re able to do as a business owner and a tenant. Then, strive to make the area around your business smoke free.
Toward a smoke-free workplace
Smoking cessation has many facets, but one thing is for sure: It’s good for your employees, and it’s good for your business. By understanding the various issues and resources related to smoking cessation, you’ll be in a better position to implement policies that work.
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