American attitudes toward smoking have changed dramatically in the past several decades. A habit that was once commonplace in restaurants, workplaces, and even airplanes has been banned from most homes, offices, and even bars. Part of that changed attitude is driven by nonsmokers who understandably prefer to avoid second-hand smoke. Another element of the change has to do with paternalistic concern for the health of the smokers themselves.
Smoking and Productivity
In addition to these concerns, at least one business in Japan is thinking of its own interests as well. “Those quick smoke breaks some employees take for a few minutes at a time throughout the day add up, giving them extra time outside of the office than nonsmoking employees,” writes Marguerite Ward in an article for CNBC.
Ward points to a company in Japan where, while smoking is a big part of the culture, productivity impacts prompted change.
“After a nonsmoking employee submitted a complaint about how smoke breaks were affecting productivity, marketing firm Piala Inc. made a change to its paid-time-off policy,” Ward writes. The Japanese company—Piala Inc.—decided to grant nonsmoking employees an extra six days off per year to make up for the time smokers spend in the aggregate on smoking breaks.
Time Off for Nonsmokers
The stated goal of Piala’s policy is to get employees to cut down on smoking through incentives, as opposed to penalties. And, according to the company, that policy has so far been successful, resulting in four of the company’s 42 smoker employees deciding to quit since the policy began.
Piala’s smoking policy is an interesting—and, so far, seemingly successful—strategy to combat adverse employee behavior through incentives, as opposed to coercion. It also highlights a fading, albeit lingering, concern among employers worldwide about counterproductive and time-consuming employee behaviors.
It would be interesting to see if a similar approach could be applied to other habits, such as social media use. If nothing else, it represents a creative human resources approach to a longstanding productivity challenge.