Those quick smoke breaks some employees take for a few minutes at a time throughout the day add up, giving them extra time outside of the office than nonsmoking employees.
One company in Japan, where smoking is deeply ingrained into culture, decided to do something about it. After a non-smoking employee submitted a complaint about how smoke breaks were affecting productivity, marketing firm Piala Inc. made a change to its paid time off policy.
The company granted non-smoking staff an additional six days off each year to make up for the time smokers take for cigarette breaks.
Hirotaka Matsushima, a spokesman for Piala Inc., told The Telegraph, “One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems.”
After hearing about the complaint, the company’s CEO, Takao Asuka, decided to give nonsmoking employees time off to compensate.
The frequent cigarette breaks meant many employees were away from their desks upwards of 15 minutes each day, Matsushima added.
The change in company policy is intended to encourage staff to quit smoking.
“I hope to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties or coercion,” Asuka told Kyodo News.
A higher percent of Japanese adults smoke than Americans. It was only this past year that the percentage of Japanese adults who smoke fell below 20 percent. According to the World Health Organization, Japanese men are three times more likely to smoke than Japanese women.
By comparison, 15 percent of American adults smoke, down from 20 percent in 2005. The decrease in American smokers is due in part to health initiatives and laws banning smoking in certain areas, major retailers no longer selling cigarettes and anti-smoking TV advertisements.
Earlier this year, Tokyo’s governor Yuriko Koike said he planned to impose a smoking ban in public places across city ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics. But curbing tobacco use in Japan will likely be difficult, as it was in the U.S. Original efforts by the country’s health ministry to ban indoor smoking in restaurants were scaled back after lobbyists pressured politicians.
So far, however, the measure taken by Piala Inc. seems to be working. Four of the company’s 42 employees who smoke have already given up the habit.
One of those new non-smokers, Shun Shinbaba, 25, told CNNMoney he used to smoke a pack of cigarettes every two days, and that he plans to use his newfound vacation time to play tennis.