New survey reveals how smoking could be pushing Lancashire office workers to breaking point

Workers taking long smoking breaks is a cause of increasing irritation among their colleagues, according to new research
Workers taking long smoking breaks is a cause of increasing irritation among their colleagues, according to new research

A new survey has highlighted the tensions among workers in Lancashire offices. And the cause of the resentment? Smoking breaks.

However, the survey also revealed that workers reveal workers feel their productivity would be improved by taking more breaks, while two-thirds of office staff are not even encouraged to take breaks.

According to the new figures, 48 per cent of North West workers believe that smoking or vaping breaks during work hours causes resentment among non-smoker colleagues.

More than half (55 per cent) of employees in the region said they or their work colleagues smoke or vape during working hours – and take an average of three smoking breaks a day.

Conversely, less than a third (30 per cent) of non-smokers said they took regular breaks from their working tasks. Amongst those that said they didn’t, half (49 per cent) said they were too busy to do so, 12 per cent said they forget to, and 12 per cent said they worried they would be viewed negatively by management.

Nationally, more than half of workers who don’t take regular breaks believe that if they did, their health and wellbeing and productivity would be improved, while just one third (38 per cent) of workers said their employer or manager encourages all employees to take regular breaks.

The research was commissioned by Willis Towers Watson, which helps companies cut the cost of employee illness, minimise levels of sickness absence and retain good staff.

Mike Blake, wellbeing lead at Willis Towers Watson, said: "Resentment felt by non-smokers towards smokers may stem from the perceived allowances that are made for smokers by employers.

"There is a perception that smokers are automatically excused, whilst non-smokers feel the need to justify taking regular breaks.

"When one group is seen as having an unfair advantage over another, it can lead to tension and dissatisfaction, which can have a ripple effect on the morale of the entire workforce.

“Companies should consider how to deliver a consistent message to all employees about the wellbeing benefits of regular breaks, as well as make explicit what is acceptable and fair in terms of breaks, for smokers and non-smokers alike. This will help clear up any ambiguity but will vary from business to business depending on the type of work undertaken and the prevailing culture.

“The ‘always-on’ culture that now exists, thanks largely in part to advances in technology, gives people flexibility and instant connectivity, but it also is in danger of tipping the delicate work/life balance,” added Mr Blake.

“Younger workers have only ever known this ‘on-demand’ working environment, so may be more inclined to believe there is an expectation that they are always engaged and available.

“But with more than half of workers saying breaks would help boost wellbeing and productivity, it is clear that staff taking time out can be mutually-beneficial for employee and employer.

“It may be that regular breaks are encouraged during inductions, but this should not fall by the wayside when the employee is settled in.

“The importance of regular breaks, as a means of promoting self-care and emotional resilience, should be communicated to employees on a consistent basis, and appropriate, dedicated spaces created where possible. This will help keep breaks at the forefront of employees’ minds and allay concerns about being negatively judged for taking time out.”