How Companies Can Help Employees Quit Smoking

Loss of productivity due to smoking breaks is usually the single largest cost that an organization incurs with an employee who is a smoker


Smoking is increasingly becoming a personal and public health issue. Tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure are among the major causes of cardiovascular diseases. While India has reported a decline in the number of smokers since 2000 (according to a new WHO report), there is still a lot to worry about: the reduction is insufficient to meet globally agreed targets aimed at protecting people from death, cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases.

Also, India alone is home to over 100 million smokers, which is 12 percent of the world’s smokers. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking and its side effects cost global economies over $1 trillion per year. Indian companies alone are losing an estimated amount of Rs 181,869 crore or $27.93 billion to smoking. This includes healthcare costs and indirect costs such as loss of productivity. 

Loss of productivity due to smoking breaks is usually the single largest cost that an organization incurs with an employee who is a smoker. Smoking breaks cost employers more than they realize: the average smoker in the UK loses around 136 hours of productive time each year, which costs the business around $2,537 or £1,522 in unproductive wages. 

Assisting employees in quitting smoking is a challenge, but it can be done

A survey conducted in India showed that 51 percent of smokers are willing to kick the butt. The other side of the coin is that quitting smoking can be challenging even for a highly motivated person, given how powerfully addictive nicotine is. And it is a fact that is supported by statistics: 50 percent of smokers who were a part of the survey say they have been unsuccessful in quitting smoking.

The first step for companies is to chart the course of action. What steps can the organization take? And most importantly, which approach can support the decision to quit smoking permanently? These are some of the factors that need to be kept in mind while chalking out a plan of action.

Technology-based employee wellness programs – A holistic approach to smoking cessation

From smoking cessation programs based on phone support and mobile applications that send personalized, motivational messages to wearable gadgets that sound the alarm whenever they detect specific body motions associated with smoking, companies that are invested in the welfare of their employees are increasingly leveraging technology and tech-based products to provide smokers with easy access to information and services. 

Organizations are turning to tech-driven employee wellness programs to help smokers quit permanently as these programs are proving to be an effective measure to encourage staff to quit smoking. Such programs are tailored to cover all aspects of a smoker’s behavior. This includes the individual’s need and triggers to smoke, motivation to quit, a structured plan on how to cut back, a support group and the steps to prevent a relapse. Such programs also partner with experts who guide employees on their concerns after they quit smoking. The support includes member confidentiality, 24X7 access to a member portal and counseling sessions with a professional counselor via phone, internet or personal interaction. Such uniquely crafted, technology-based coaching programs provide employees with a safety net of sorts and also help ensure that the change is sustainable. 

Employee wellness programs also wonderfully complement other popular smoking cessation initiatives such as financial incentives or no-smoke policies that create awareness and provide employees with much-needed support before the smoking ban is actually introduced. 

Technology also plays a key role in employee awareness campaigns: constant communication about why one should quit smoking can be relayed through emails and intranet portals. Online forums and blogs also provide virtual support and valuable insights based on people’s experiences of what it takes to quit smoking.  Employees can also be roped in for their views and suggestions on the policy through online surveys. 

Looking ahead

Helping smokers conquer their nicotine addictions can achieve several goals at a time. Not only does the person’s health improve, but it also translates into increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and healthcare costs. And as awareness about health and wellness grows and access to technology increases, employee wellness programs are positioned to gain more traction as trusted platforms that provide opportunities and support to employees to kick the habit of smoking. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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