The smoking ban could increase productivity by 10% - 14%, according to Mark Bridge, partner of top twenty accountancy firm, Kingston Smith LLP in St Albans. But whilst a high proportion of the estimated 11 million smokers in the UK will give up smoking at work, guidelines must be set for those who plan to continue to smoke during the working day once the ban has been introduced.
Mark Bridge comments: "Just because a ban is being introduced, we are not assuming that all smokers will suddenly quit. However, we do believe that a significant proportion of the workforce will give up smoking and this will have a positive impact on productivity. From conducting qualitative research in our own office and amongst other businesses, we discovered that many smokers take two smoking breaks in the morning and two in the afternoon. These short breaks soon add up, often resulting in up to an hour away from their desks during the course of a seven hour day. We envisage that, on average, 50% of employees who previously smoked at work will now spend at least an extra half hour, and in many cases an extra hour, at their desks each day. This is great news for businesses."
Kingston Smith LLP is keen to point out that workplaces need to be responsible in addressing the issues around the smoking ban. Many owner-managed businesses, for example, do not have in-house HR support and are unlikely to have policies in place relating to the ban.
Mark Bridge continues: "Many employers have been great in offering support to help employees to give up smoking and this is a trend that looks set to continue. However, it is important that employers also discuss plans for smokers and set some clear guidelines for what is and isn't acceptable as of July 2007. For example, without clear guidelines in place to restrict the amount of time allowed away from the building for those who wish to smoke off site, employees could end up taking longer smoking breaks than before.
"Managers will also need to understand the pressures on those who are giving up smoking. Initially, this may lead to increased stress levels, which is likely to affect clients and colleagues. This needs to be addressed and support needs to be given to these staff in the short-term.
"The smoking ban is being welcomed by businesses and by the estimated three million non-smokers who are exposed to passive smoking in the workplace. Most businesses have experienced complaints from non-smokers that the smokers take much more time out of the working day than the non-smokers. The ban should hopefully alleviate this problem. We believe the ban will encourage a large number of people to give up smoking and this can only be a positive step for the individual concerned and for their employer."