Smoking Breaks Cost UK Economy £8.4 Billion a Year… or Do They?

Smoking Breaks Cost UK Economy £8.4 Billion a Year… or Do They?

A study for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) claims that smoking breaks at work are costing British businesses £8.4 billion a year.

The research, reported in today’s Guardian, suggests that workers who disappear for 10-minute cigarette breaks four times a day cost their employers £1,185 a year in lost productivity.

One in five of the British workforce smoke, according the research, and they take an average of 3.9 smoking breaks per day, each lasting 9.8 minutes. These figures mean that smoking takes a heavy toll on productivity and should be of great concern to businesses.

Lisa Purcell, manager of the BHF’s health at work programme, said: “This research shows that not only is smoking extremely damaging to people’s heart health, it’s also damaging to the health of businesses at a time when every penny counts. Both should be a huge concern for business owners and managers.”

Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs disputes these figures, however.

“All workers are entitled to breaks by law. Nonsmokers use them to have a coffee. Smokers use them to have a coffee and a cigarette,” he writes on his blog.

He also adds: “The relationship between minutes worked and worker output is not as crudely linear as these kind of studies assume.

“Productivity has increased greatly in the last 100 years despite working hours falling. The three day week saw a surprising small reduction productivity despite working hours being reduced by 40 per cent.”

He points to psychological research from the University of Illinois which states that work breaks make employees more productive. There is even evidence that nicotine can make people more productive!

He also says that the fact employers do not actively discriminate against smokers suggests that they do not see smoking as a real threat to productivity.

Credit to Christopher Snowdon