How to deal with Employees taking too many Smoke Breaks?

How to deal with Employees taking too many Smoke Breaks?

How to deal with Employees taking too many Smoke Breaks?

Managing the challenge of employees taking too many smoke breaks in the workplace requires a balance between respecting individual habits and maintaining overall productivity and well-being. While breaks are crucial for employee health and morale, excessive smoke breaks can not only disrupt workflow but also pose health risks to both smokers and non-smokers. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss about smoke breaks, their negative effects on employees, and how to deal with them.

What are Smoke Breaks?

Simply put smoke breaks are 10-15-minute breaks employees take to smoke during office hours. Some employees even utilize their rest breaks for smoking. However, employees taking too many smoke breaks can decrease productivity, leading to increased absenteeism. Many employees consider smoking a stress reliever.

Smoking harms the entire body.  Inhaling the burning plant matter from cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or electronic cigarettes delivers harmful chemicals deep into your lungs and bloodstream.  This can lead to a variety of serious diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases like emphysema, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

According to Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees can take breaks from 5 to 20 minutes. These breaks can be counted as working hours. These breaks can be restroom breaks, personal telephone calls or visits, to get soft drinks etc., but not smoke breaks. If employees take more breaks, the employer does not need to pay them or add them to the total working hours.

Negative Effects of Employees Taking Too Many Smoke Breaks

Smoking in the workplace not only affects smokers but also harms non-smokers through secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke refers to the exhaled smoke and smoke particles that pollute the air, especially in enclosed spaces. Everyone in the vicinity inhales this harmful smoke, putting both smokers and non-smokers at risk. Studies have shown that smoking leads to productivity losses like absenteeism, presenteeism, and reduced work performance, making it a major component of total economic costs.

Productivity Differences Between Smokers and Non-Smokers

This table summarizes the key differences between smokers and non-smokers in the workplace, examining workplace behavior, health, and productivity.

Aspect Smokers Non-Smokers
Break Habits Frequent and longer breaks Typically adhere to regular break schedules
Work Performance Reduced performance and productivity Consistently maintain productivity levels
Health Impact Increased anxiety, decreased concentration Not exposed to second-hand smoke
Workplace Safety Higher fire risk Lower risk of fire incidents
Workplace Culture Potential to disrupt workplace culture Less likely to negatively impact culture
Sick Days More frequent sick days Fewer sick days
Work Submission Delays in submitting work Timely submission of work
Longevity and Retirement Shorter lifespan, early retirement Longer lifespan, less likely to retire early

9 Ways to handle Employees taking too many Smoke Breaks

Many workplaces are looking for ways to create a healthy and productive environment for everyone. If you’re concerned about employee smoking break frequency, here are 9 strategies that can help:

1. Assess the Situation

  • To understand employee smoke break habits, data should be collected on the frequency and duration of breaks taken. 
  • This data can help identify any patterns or trends in smoke break practices across all departments. 
  • Additionally, investigating potential contributing factors like stress levels, workload, and workplace culture might influence the frequency of smoke breaks.

2. Communicate Expectations

  • Communicate about the company policies regarding smoke breaks, including expectations for frequency, duration, and designated smoking areas. 
  • To maintain a productive and healthy work environment for everyone, it’s important that all employees understand the importance of adhering to these policies. 
  • Additionally, raise awareness of how smoking affects individual health and the overall team environment.

3. Address the Issue Directly

  • Schedule private meetings with employees who are taking frequent smoke breaks to discuss the issue openly and respectfully.
  • Discuss the potential benefits of reducing frequent smoke breaks on overall productivity.
  • Also encourage staff to discuss any underlying reasons or challenges that might be leading to their frequent smoke breaks. Be happy to offer support in finding solutions together.

4. Offer Support

  • Offer resources and support to employees who want to quit or reduce smoking, including smoking cessation programs and counseling services.
  • Promote alternative coping skills for managing stress and taking breaks, like mindfulness exercises, walking breaks, and relaxation techniques.
  • Cultivate a supportive work environment where employees feel comfortable seeking help and support from colleagues and managers.

5. Enforce Policies Consistently

  • For fairness and accountability, enforce smoke break policies consistently across all employees.
  • Violations of smoke break policy should be addressed promptly and consistently, with defined disciplinary actions followed as needed.
  • Equip managers and supervisors to effectively enforce policies while fostering positive employee relations through training and support.

6. Provide Alternatives

  • Provide alternatives to smoking breaks, such as flexible break schedules or designated relaxation areas, to cater to employees while minimizing disruption at work.
  • Promote wellness ideas and challenges that help employees develop healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress and taking breaks.
  • Rely on doesn’t quite fit here. You want to encourage a decrease in smoke breaks, not relying on them.

7. Monitor Progress

  • Track and monitor the progress of employees working to reduce smoke breaks. Offer feedback and support throughout their journey.
  • Review data on smoke break usage to identify any changes or improvements in smoking practices over time.
  • Recognize and reward employees who successfully quit smoking or significantly reduce their smoking frequency.

8. Seek Feedback

  • Solicit feedback from employees on the effectiveness of smoke break policies and support programs.
  • Hold open discussions between employees and management to address any concerns regarding smoke break policies.
  • Actively listen to employee feedback and incorporate their suggestions into our ongoing efforts to address excessive smoke breaks.

9. Review and Adjust

  • Conduct regular reviews of smoke break policies and procedures to assess their effectiveness and identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Adjust policies and strategies based on feedback, data analysis, and changes in the workplace environment or employee needs.
  • Foster a supportive and healthy work culture where employees feel empowered to make positive choices regarding their well-being.


In conclusion, managing the challenge of employees taking too many smoke breaks needs a multifaceted approach that balances individual needs with organizational productivity and well-being. By implementing the above 9 strategies you can reduce the smoke breaks. 

It’s imperative to recognize the financial costs associated with smoking-related illnesses and productivity loss, emphasizing the importance of mitigating excessive smoke breaks. Moreover, promoting wellness initiatives and creating a supportive work culture where employees feel empowered to make positive choices regarding their health and well-being is essential.

Ultimately, by implementing targeted interventions and fostering a culture of health, productivity, and mutual respect, employers can effectively manage smoke break frequency while promoting the overall well-being and success of their workforce. For more blogs, checkout Wellness 360.