A French reader asked, “I see a lot of people smoking in front of their offices. Does smoking at work hurt a company and professional image?”
Over 71 percent of American businesses are are regulated by smoking bans of varying degrees. These laws affect restaurants, public places, hospitality, and bars. There are even laws forbidding smoking within a certain distance of public entrances. France passed a law in 2006 forbidding smoking in most public places. All of these legislation try to protect the public from the effects of second hand smoke.
Now, the question for today asks, does smoking in front of one’s work hurt the image of the company? Let’s look at this in two ways. One is a question of making the lifestyle decision to smoke and the other is a question of employees loitering in front of the workplace during their breaks.
I am not a smoker. My husband, Franck, has a greater aversion to cigarettes as his grandfather passed away from lung cancer. While our lives have been personally touched by the deadly consequences of smoking, I am not here to make the judgement call about a person’s decision to smoke.
Having worked with smokers in America, smokers are generally discreet about their smoking habits and prefer to go to their cars or behind the workplace to smoke. It is my deduction that smoking has become a social taboo in some cities due partially to The Truth initiative that emerged in 1998 after America’s four largest cigarette manufacturers were ordered to sponsor the initiative.
My attention goes to the action of smoking and the location where it occurs. I have noticed in downtown Annecy, employees loitering in front of their workplace to smoke. They can be seen lounging by the front door, huddled in groups, or just leaning against the building as they take their smoke break. Take the cigarette out of their hands and what do you see? You see employees at work standing around, doing nothing. They may be on their break, but that is not what a client or passerby sees. They see an employee not doing their work. They are loitering.
Essentially, smoking has little to do with what an outsider sees. I think the physical act of smoking, i.e. loitering and doing nothing, in front of the workplace hurts the company image. Even if these employees worked hard for their break, we could never really know for sure. Why would a smart business risk that kind of miscommunication?
My suggestion would to be to provide smoking break areas that do not disturb non-smokers out of the sight of customers. This way, clients can go about their business and employees can take their breaks in peace.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree. I’d love to hear what you think.
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