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Is your employer culling smokers from the payroll?

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Is your employer culling smokers from the payroll?

Old 11-09-05, 04:11 PM
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I have noticed a very interesting thing happening at the past two corporations where I have worked.

The tobacco smoking employees are systematically having their employement terminated.

I am not a smoker and I always felt a little irked when I would be working my @ss off all day long while some colleagues would be taking 10 to 15 minute breaks throughout the day to smoke. I would be inside working and look outside the window to see them sitting on their asses at a picnic bench smoking cigarettes. Worse yet, you would have to walk the gauntlet of smokers to get through the entrances to the building.

Well, low and behold, I noticed that over time, nearly all of them have been culled. The number of employees hanging around the doors and sitting on the picnic benches is definately shrinking - most definately because they are being terminated. Perhaps it is a coincidence, but they are not being replaced by people who hang around outside and smoke.

I wonder if this is because they create a sloppy/lazy image of themselves by hanging around outside while their colleagues are working inside, or if they are coincidently poor performers that also happen to smoke.

What are you guys seeing?
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Old 11-09-05, 04:31 PM
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I guess it comes down to how you measure your workers. I know that around here, a lot of people who go through low-end jobs are measured based upon hourly calls and sales. Some people at Bargain Network mentioned that the figures are tallied up every week and only the top-producers are promoted. A lot of people drop out as well. So if you're taking 45-60 minutes total of smoking breaks a day, even with exactly the same efficiency as someone else, you won't be producing as much by the end of the day. Combined with lower promotion rates and higher drop-outs of those at the bottom, it may have the indirect effect of losing more of the smokers..

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Old 11-10-05, 11:06 PM
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yes "evil smokers" must die. oh yea and kill the butt scratcher, day dreamers and those who loose intrest in searving their corparate masters, because profit for the elite is every thing! and damitt we must all do our part I tell ya.... long live the machine!!!!!!!!!
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Old 11-11-05, 12:27 AM
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Originally Posted by outakontroll
yes "evil smokers" must die. oh yea and kill the butt scratcher, day dreamers and those who loose intrest in searving their corparate masters, because profit for the elite is every thing! and damitt we must all do our part I tell ya.... long live the machine!!!!!!!!!
I admit I don't like smoking, but my question is sincere. I really have noticed a culling of the smokers in two different corporations. I am wondering if it is just coincidental, or is this happening elsewhere.
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Old 11-11-05, 12:42 AM
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They die.

Seriously, I was a smoker for over 25 years and I quit several years ago. Smoking is just a lot less common than it was 10 years ago, at least in the US. Those that remain stand out. The laws on smoking are getting really restrictive. Washington just passed another law forbidding smoking within 25 feet of doorways, windows, and vents on public buildings. Smokers are a minority to which discrimination is encouraged.They may be getting targeted to reduce health care costs.
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Old 11-11-05, 02:28 AM
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I understand your pain with the "trying to get into the building". I have to dodge the smokey maze of haze as well.

But I can't say that I've noticed smokers being let go. We just had a big set of layoffs recently and all the ones that *I know* were non-smokers. Just luck of the draw I think.
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Old 11-11-05, 02:34 AM
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If you ever ask, they will deny it vehemently but:

Major airlines will ask pilot applicants if they smoke. They'll conduct the interview normally and thank the candidate.
If they answered "yes" to being a smoker, when the candidate leaves, their resume and application hits the round file.

Would you want YOUR pilot, after 12 hours of flying, trying to make a landing in poor weather (Cat.3 ILS), tired, stressed - to be having nicotine fits?

I don't think so.

I'd wager Danno's assessment is bang on. If nothing else, smoking is just one more distraction. Some jobs have the free time to handle it but people taking a smoke break every hour aren't going have the same productivity as those not. +1
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Old 11-11-05, 05:19 AM
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The responses thus far have been insightful.

Let me give you some examples of the smoker-eliminations I have seen. The two corporations that I mentioned both had about 2,000 employees at the facilities where I worked.

Both had probably around ten or fifteen employees at any given time sitting (or standing) outside smoking. Of course, more than ten or fifteen employees smoked, but with the rotation of smokers throughout the day, there was a pretty steady crowd totalling ten to fifteen people.

Naturally, these companies inhale and exhale employees regularly like any other red-blooded American company that practices modern re-organization fire-drills.

Today, the crowd of smokers is maybe two, and often none. First, of course, is the fact that fewer smokers have the nerve to be seen standing around smoking and demonstrating their leisure time.

More startling, however is the fact that I know the people who have been let go and can confirm that the smoking population was clearly let go. It seems they were either replaced with non-smokers or by smokers who don't smoke at work. The net result is that they are gone and today few people stand outside smoking at these facilities.
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Old 11-11-05, 10:30 AM
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I wonder if there's a bean-counter deep within the recesses of your company that has productivity and cost figures broken down into various groupings? As far as I know, there's no law that defines smokers as a protected class like age or race. For that matter, names aren't protected classes either and I will never hire people with certain names... Good luck proving it though...
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Old 11-11-05, 11:57 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
I wonder if there's a bean-counter deep within the recesses of your company that has productivity and cost figures broken down into various groupings? As far as I know, there's no law that defines smokers as a protected class like age or race. For that matter, names aren't protected classes either and I will never hire people with certain names... Good luck proving it though...
I don't think it is the bean counters that are responsible for culling the smokers, but the image that is created by people standing around smoking outside and their supervisors' reaction to it. Eventually, their "smoke break" timing is very bad.

I remember being in a couple of short-notice emergency meetings where the whole department would be called into an impromotue meeting. Smoker "Jim" would miss the meeting and the Director would say, "Where the hell is Jim?!" The reply would be, "I think he just stepped outside for a smoke break" which would set a bad tone for smoker Jim who didn't even know what hit him.

To further the frustration, if a call would come in for smoker Jim and he wasn't there or if a supervisor was looking for smoker Jim and he wasn't at his desk, everybody immediately assumed he was slacking off outside having a smoke. In reality, smoker Jim might have been meeting with the engineering department or trouble shooting an issue for a customer, but it was always assumed that if he wasn't around, he was outside slacking off with a smoke. Many times I would see a supervisor looking for smoker Jim or smoker Jane and if they weren't immediately there, the supervisor's eyes would roll in frustration and you knew what he was thinking: "that damned slacker - outside smoking in an emergency when I need him/her right now!" Again, it wasn't always a fair or accurate assumption, but without smoker Jim/Jane there to defend themselves, the worst was always assumed.

So, if I had to guess, it is the IMAGE of smokers being lazy or slackers that causes their downfall in a lot of cases. This is not necessarily a fair stereotype, but I think it is an image that exists. Obviously, many smokers are, in fact, hard workers. However, bad timing of smoke-breaks and the visibility of the smoker shuffling about outside is what causes the career catastrophies for many smokers.
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Old 11-11-05, 12:05 PM
  #11  
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let's say 10 employees take five 10 mintue smoke breaks per day.

that's over 4 hours lost time per employee per week or over 40 hours for 10 people.

so, basically the company is paying an extra 40 hour salary per week for nothing. if the average salary is $25\hour - that's $1000 a week waste.

* or course, that doesn't account for the fact that people waste time in all sorts of different ways regarless of smoking or not.
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Old 11-11-05, 12:26 PM
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Plenty of people in my profession either are asked to move on, or are told to. Smoking has not played a part in any of the cases I've witnessed. I smoked for 17 years, having quit this past July. Worked for the same company the past 12 years, always have received top-notch evaluations, raises, and promotions. The folks who I have seen let go were either performing poorly, or succumbed to pressure and lashed out inappropriately towards coworkers or management. There could always be a first time, however. Especially with the anti-smoking climate we now live in...
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Old 11-11-05, 02:14 PM
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Maybe the companies are paring down their health insurance risks.
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Old 11-11-05, 02:50 PM
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Smokers can't be good for health insurance rates. Everyone that checks 'YES' on the smoking column, adds to the overall cost of a company health insurance policy. This could be another good reason to snuff out the smoker.

I am an ex-smoker and have abosolutely ZERO compassion for the weaklings that can't, won't quit! I don't think they have any rights other than the right to be discriminated against and die early.
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Old 11-11-05, 03:54 PM
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yeah, my dad quit cold-turkey when I was 7. I guess being in the army got him hooked. But once he had kids, that was it. I do remember having 1st and only cigarette ever. Sneaked it from behind his back and puffed it in the bathroom... yuk!
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Old 11-11-05, 04:10 PM
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WHen i worked for a chimney sweep company over the summer, one of the guys was a smoker.
He would frequently take breaks to smoke, I mean frequently. We are working hard and pressed for time, and then comes a smoke break. THe boss was not very thrilled
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Old 11-11-05, 04:39 PM
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Just don't allow them to take smoke breaks. Problem solved.

If they demand it, say:
Here's your choices-
a) $x/hr pay cut, you must punch out/in for each break (unpaid breaks), get your own health insurance (if on a company policy)
b) Quit
c) Fired
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Old 11-11-05, 05:45 PM
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I remember years ago someone at work calculated the amount of inefficiency due to smokers in the plant. In those days, guys could smoke in the plant. It was such a fascinating memo that I remember the details clearly.

There were 1,000 employees in the plant who were paid to work with their hands assembling. He surveyed that 40% of the workers smoked. They smoked about 20 cigarettes per workday at seven minutes per cigarette.

He estimated that when smoking, the worker usually dedicated one hand to holding the cigarette. That came to about 2.33 hours per smoker. If I remember the math correctly, he figured that we had the equivalent of 116.5 full-time one-armed workers or 58 full-time no-armed workers due to working hands being pre-occupied with holding cigarettes.

The really alarming thing is the realization that the above calculation doesn't account for all the time wasted preparing, lighting and actually smoking the cigarettes. In one's own lifetime, think how much TIME a smoker wastes smoking. It is just about blows your mind. Even the most dumb-witted person could learn several foreign languages with the amount of time wasted smoking a pack of cigs a day.

It was not long after that, smoking in the plant and inside the office was banned.
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Old 11-11-05, 05:58 PM
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Did the productivity go up after that?
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Old 11-11-05, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
Did the productivity go up after that?
Good question. Apparently not. The company shrunk over the years. If I had to guess, having people shuffling around outside the building smoking was even less efficient than having them working with one hand.

Sadly, many of the workers lost their jobs due to international competition. Without work, smoking and thinking became a career rather than a hobby for a lot of the folks. Ironically, they lost jobs to workers who still smoke in foreign factories.
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Old 11-11-05, 07:24 PM
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Several years ago, my company sponsored a program to quit smoking. It was free to all smokers.

In our company of about 230 persons, I think about ten still smoke. And hey, while they smoke, I'm on BF, so what's the productivity difference?

Oh, yeah, for all you smart alecs, the program was free to NON smokers too!
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Old 11-12-05, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by mike
The really alarming thing is the realization that the above calculation doesn't account for all the time wasted preparing, lighting and actually smoking the cigarettes. In one's own lifetime, think how much TIME a smoker wastes smoking. It is just about blows your mind. Even the most dumb-witted person could learn several foreign languages with the amount of time wasted smoking a pack of cigs a day.

It was not long after that, smoking in the plant and inside the office was banned.
I really don't think that is true. Maybe I'm biased because I smoke... but I think the biggest problem for a smoker is moreso their health problems (and costs directly associated with the health problems).

At my current job, anyone is allowed to smoke on the shop floor, regardless of who is around. I've been doing a lot of people watching and found that the most unproductive people (in terms of time when machines are idle) are the ones who don't smoke! Most of the machines in the shop are what's called Computer Numerical Control [CNC] Machines. With these, there are certain points in the program where the machine stops so that the operator can check and make sure everything is working right, change any tooling, whatever...

I have noticed that the smokers are usually just standing around smoking by the machine watching it go or talking with people nearby. When the machine stops, they go do their job, and start it back up. The non-smokers usually seem to pass the time by taking more bathroom breaks than the smokers seem to, or reading the newspaper. Most common occurance of the readers: Finishing the article or a few more paragraphs before getting up to do their job.

What your guy needed to do when evaluating the productivity loss of smoking a pack of cigarettes while on the job needed to factor in was how often he needed both hands to efficiently perform his job. Most smokers who are doing a job that requires 2 hands aren't going to try to always do it with one hand. Usually, they will have an ash tray to set their cig down, do the task, then pick it back up. Nor will it be always be 50% reduction in productivity by doing a job with one hand. Many jobs can be done just as effectively with one hand as with two, with the difference in time completion in milliseconds or seconds, not minutes or hours.

I do agree that to allow persons to smoke while at work, the building should be suitable for non-smokers to not be forced to have second-hand smoke. For example, a cubicle wall is not significant seperation from a smoker.

Anyways, I think the evaluation by your coworker was very flawed. But back to my original reason for replying about time...

I'll take your data estimation:
(20 cigs/workday * 7min/cig) = 140min/day
As most smokers can attest to, you really don't just completely stop thinking when you smoke. You don't just stand there puffing away... usually you're thinking about all sorts of things... while at work, usually work related.

*light* *think: ok, boss is going to ask me when this will be done... It's monday and I have 20 of these parts to finish, they take on average 45 minutes each to complete plus a bit for setting them, so I can get 9 done on a good day. On a bad day... maybe 4 can get done... ok, so 20 / 4 = 5 days maximum. I'll tell him I can have them done at the latest by the end of Thursday and if all goes well I should be done Wednesday morning* *ash out*

That little anecdote was really just to show that only maybe 5% of each cig is devoted entirely to the cigarette.

So 5% of 140min/day = 7min/day of true unproductivity.

(7min/day * 5days/wk * 48wks/yr) / 60min/hr = 28 hours/year

I think it's hard to learn a language by studying it for only 28 hours over the course of a year.

More time is spent idly by the average commuter listening to Howard Stern tell fart jokes or catching up on the latest celebrity gossip, than is spent by smokers devoting their full attention to a cigarette.
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Old 11-13-05, 04:55 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
I wonder if there's a bean-counter deep within the recesses of your company that has productivity and cost figures broken down into various groupings? As far as I know, there's no law that defines smokers as a protected class like age or race. For that matter, names aren't protected classes either and I will never hire people with certain names... Good luck proving it though...
No- it is HEALTH CARE COSTS- plain and simple... nothing to do with image or productivity. Double digit increases in premiums have driven this-- and obesity has become a growing target as well. I personally have no trouble with going after smokers. They are NOT a protected class of workers.

Most people cannot drink or use drugs at work... why should they smoke? It is a bit complicated when they go after those who smoke at home... but I am OK with it.
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Old 11-13-05, 07:19 AM
  #24  
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If you have enough smokers to support a vending machine, all the profits can go to bicycle commuter "infrastructure". Racks, changing rooms, showers, Cliff Bars, Office Lube, Office Tools, etc. Then you can thank them everytime you pass them on the way in.

Last edited by chinitonorte; 11-13-05 at 07:25 AM.
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Old 11-13-05, 07:48 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by chinitonorte
If you have enough smokers to support a vending machine, all the profits can go to bicycle commuter "infrastructure". Racks, changing rooms, showers, Cliff Bars, Office Lube, Office Tools, etc. Then you can thank them everytime you pass them on the way in.
I like that idea.
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