Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Smoke alarm

I haven't much sympathy with workplace smokers, but the new tendency to make them clock out and clock in whenever they take a fag break does seem a bit over the top.

Apparently a number of local authorities are now asking smokers either to clock out while they smoke or work overtime to compensate.

Not surprisingly smokers are objecting to being singled out for penalties. What about non-smokers who waste their time on the internet or Facebook? Or make themselves a cup of coffee? Or spend ten minutes gossiping with a workmate? Or spin out that out-of-office trip to do a bit of shopping? Shouldn't they be penalised as well?

The truth is we all sneak little breaks from work to give ourselves a boost or fend off a heavy workload for a while. Either we should all be sanctioned or nobody should. It's hardly fair to jump on smokers and nobody else. I'm with the smokers here.

Those non-smokers who claim to feel resentful about 'privileged' smokers should look more honestly at their own personal indulgences and the little work-avoidance tricks they themselves get up to. If they aren't careful, they could find themselves hoist by their own petard.

We all have our dodges, especially if we've had decades of work-experience to suss them all out and refine them into barely-noticeable spells of truancy. One of the vital skills to pick up on your first job is the art of ingenious skiving. But still, that's another subject altogether.

26 comments:

meno said...

I think people should clock in and out for potty breaks.

Kidding. I'm kidding.

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm sorry to have to disagree with you there Nick but I had huge issues when I ran a small company in Toronto where the non-smokers were completely up in arms over the outside smoke breaks the smokers got - often running not to the length of a cigarette but to 30 mins or more as they gossipped and chatted and crammed in as many cigarettes as they could.
I made a discriminatory and unwritten policy never ever to hire a smoker again.
As to downtown Toronto, all one saw were smokers huddled in the doorways impeding access and exit from the buildings while their non-smoking co-workers slaved away upstairs.
It does not encourage fairness in the workplace because you can be sure these smokers are facebooking and chatting away in the office as well.
Yes they should clock out. They were always the people who took an extra 15 minutes for lunch too.....
And yes I am a former nicotine addict.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Meno - I don't think they could do that anyway, it would be discrimination against employees with urological problems.

www - Well, I bow to your experience there. The smokers in your company were clearly taking the piss. In the circumstances, I can't really blame you refusing to hire more smokers. And that's a good point about them doing all the facebooking and chatting as well.

Scarlet Blue said...

What about non-smokers who waste their time on the internet or Facebook? Or make themselves a cup of coffee? Or spend ten minutes gossiping with a workmate?
Yes but smokers do all this as well!!
I am a smoker, so I should know.
But I agree, we all work out our own little skives - half the pleasure of working.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - Well, straight from the horse's mouth, a shame-faced confession! You're right of course, smokers are likely to be up to all the other dodges as well.

Eryl said...

If you hate your job you'll find a way to do s little of it as possible, whatever your habits. Penalizing people for taking a break isn't going to make them get the job done. And what is more important for an employer, imprisoning staff in the office or those staff doing the job? I used to work in recruitment and we always found happy workers achieved and miserable ones didn't, and there's nothing more likely to make someone feel miserable than feeling overly controlled. The very notion of 'clocking' people seems draconian to me, and makes me feel slightly queasy.

Looking forward to your post on ingenious skiving!

secret agent woman said...

If smokers didn't drink coffee or soda or whatever and never got on the net and the time-wasting actually balanced out, I'd agree. But smoking tends to be a fairly lengthy process and occurs many times a day. I think it's fair.

Baino said...

I'm a smoker albeit much reduced these days and have NEVER taken a smoko. Although what next? Will we be making breastfeeding mums clock on and off? That's the latest 'break' that's been gazetted in our awards.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Your sense of fairness is commendable, but I spent many years in the workplace watching smokers take numerous 15 or 20 minute cigarette breaks per day, on the clock, while I worked. It wasn't fair.

Nick said...

Eryl - That's true, the important question is whether people get the job done, not whether they're bunking off for 15 minutes. Also true that happy workers are more productive.

I can recall a charity fundraiser I worked with, a heavy smoker who was always popping out for a fag, but he was also the most successful fundraiser in the organisation.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - I guess I'm less censorious only because the smokers I've worked with have mostly been less self-indulgent and always did a good job.

Baino - You've never taken a fag break? Good for you. Yes, I await the imminent breastfeeding clampdown !

Heart - Wow, there's an awful lot of hidden resentment out there! But regular 15-20 minute breaks are not going to endear you to your workmates.

kylie said...

what a conversation this has turned out to be!

the whole breastfeeding thing makes me laugh...
does anyone ACTUALLY breastfeed at work?
and i suspect that anyone who is in a position where they can take a baby to work probably doesnt need to get permission to feed it

as for the whole time wasting issue i can barely imagine what to say. i cannot use the company phone, i can only use my mobile in break times, cannot access the internet, get chased if i stop to chat for a moment and have even been forced to explain my absence for a toilet break

Nick said...

Kylie - Wow, your workplace has a pretty draconian regime! Probably the other end of the scale from those offices where the staff somehow get away with outrageous time-wasting. But at least you all get the job done (or so I assume), which is what you're there for.

rummuser said...

We have come a long way from the days when I started to work Nick. The way values have changed to defend breaks as part of the perks of employment makes me cringe. I would rather not go down that route, but productivity, adjusted for mechanisation, I believe was much higher those days than now. Just make a phone call to complain about some service and you will know what I am talking about.

Nick said...

Ramana - You're right about declining standards of service. Firms here in NI are still pretty efficient but if I ever try one of those UK-wide call centres it's usually a frustrating saga of misunderstandings and indifference.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Actually, since most people seem to be smoking again, the workmates are most likely also smokers.

Grannymar said...

I never smoked. If it was a choice between the coffee break or a smoke, I wonder which the smoker would choose? I did object to the smokers taking those extra breaks several times during the day. Smoking is an addiction. If the worker was addicted to drink, would they be allowed to disappear several times in the day to have a drink? I think not.

Macy said...

Nick - Agree with you absolutely. There is a nasty tendency these days to be completely self righteous about smokers and their nasty dirty smelly habit...(which shouldn't be allowed where there are children, or indoors, or in cars, or yadfa yadda yadda).
Everyone get a grip. It's cigarettes today, alcohol tomorrow, and probably sugar and fats in the foreseeable.

Nick said...

Heart - Really, is it that bad in San Francisco? I haven't noticed any major increase in smokers over here.

Grannymar - Good point about nobody accepting alcohol breaks. Or for that matter cocaine breaks or porn breaks.

Macy - Well, it IS a nasty, dirty, smelly habit but whether workers should be singled out for it is I think debatable.

Alcohol abuse is a big big subject. Clearly it's causing massive health problems and huge expense to the NHS but I'm at a loss to know how to stop it.

Liz said...

Much as I dislike smoking I'm with you on this, nick. We all do it.

Nick said...

Liz - Indeed, we all have our little work-avoidance ploys. Whether the sum total of smokers' time-wasting is more or less than the non-smokers, I wouldn't know!

Los Angelista said...

You have me realizing that there's been almost zero smokers in the places I've worked - which is undoubtedly an excellent thing. I'd agree but I think as long as someone gets their work done, who cares? When they're not, then penalize them.

Nick said...

LA Liz - That seems very sensible. Don't penalise them for smoking, penalise them for not getting the job done. Isn't that the main object of the exercise?

Murr Brewster said...

I always noticed that the people who thought everyone else didn't work hard, but they did, didn't. I worked really hard. I did, too.

Nick said...

Murr - Yes, that's often the case as well. If you've got the time to moan about others, then you're probably not working....

secret agent woman said...

Wait a minute - are you saying that you believe smokers are less self-indulgent, on average, than non-smokers? You got any data to back that up?