Whenever I see a group of smokers huddled outside a workplace lighting up, the same two questions always cross my mind: Lost productivity due to smoking-related illnesses aside, how many hours of productivity are lost each year due to people standing outside smoking cigarettes during the workday? And what's the best way to measure the inequity suffered by all the non-smokers who don't waste company time that way?
Let me state right up front that I don't smoke, and I never have, so I will readily admit to being far more concerned about non-smokers' rights than I am about smokers' rights. In fact, the way I see it, the only right a smoker is entitled to is the right to smoke at a time and in a place that have zero impact on any other human being who doesn't expressly consent to the impact.
According to a Gallup poll from July of last year, 22 percent of adult Americans are smokers. I've been unable to find any statistics that show whether the smoking rate among IT professionals is higher or lower than that, but having spent a lot of time around IT pros over the last two decades, my hunch is it's probably higher. I have no real sense of why that's the case, if indeed it is, and I'd be interested in hearing from readers who have a better sense one way or the other. If anyone can find any statistics, that would be ideal.
In any case, it seems perfectly sensible to me for companies to just ban smoking altogether. If you're a smoker and you can't live with the ban, hit the road. There are too many people who are out of work, who can learn to do your job just as well as you can, and who would be grateful for the chance to do it without wasting all the time that you waste outside smoking cigarettes. In fact, I'd be all for taking the next step and banning smokers altogether. That way, someone else wouldn't have to cover for you when you're out with some smoking-related illness, and hopefully the money your employer saves in lower fees for corporate health insurance policies could be passed along to the employees.
Unfortunately, very few organizations have had the courage to take that bold step. According to a poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management in January, the results of which were released last month, 95 percent of organizations have no formal policy against hiring smokers and have no plans to implement such a policy. Only 2 percent of organizations currently have a formal policy against hiring smokers, and only 3 percent plan to implement such a policy within the next 12 months.
Here are some other discouraging statistics from the SHRM poll:
The 78 percent of us who don't smoke have been forced to deal with the consequences of smoking long enough. There's no other group that has such a harmful, yet socially acceptable, effect on society in general, and the workplace in particular. I have no idea why we insist on coddling this particular group, but I do know that it's time for the coddling to end.