An estimated 137.3 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2016. This is equivalent to 4.3 days per worker. North Tyneside Business Forum are currently working with the Public Health team and Better Health @ Work team to help SME’s promote healthy lifestyles to their workforce.
Smoking in the Workplace
Smoking in the workplace is something of an emotive subject; for every member of staff who smokes, there’s someone who doesn’t want to be exposed to second-hand smoke; for everyone who passionately advocates quitting smoking, there is someone who will passionately defend their right to smoke.
A workplace smoking policy is a balancing act that supports everyone’s needs, but also helps smokers to try and quit. Quorum Business Park’s first foray into a smoking policy came as part of the Better Health at Work application. The award recognises the efforts of employers in the North East and Cumbria in addressing health issues within the workplace.
Quorum have been part of Better Health since 2015, and selected smoking as the ongoing campaign that they have worked on throughout the award, from the early stages at Bronze Award, to their current status, Continuing Excellence.
We sat down with Laura McGrath is Events and Sustainability Manager at Quorum Business Park at Quorum Business Park to find out more and to give businesses some top tips on how to implement a smoking policy at your workplace.
“When our early attempts at smoking cessation programmes fizzled out – staff feedback told us that 15 minute smoking breaks were a firmly established part of the working day – we started to think about what we could do differently to encourage staff away from smoking cigarettes.”
“Smoking prevalence is high in call centre and shift environments – 15 minute breaks in the morning are habitually spent with friends, smoking. We had this in mind when designing our policy; was there a way to discourage smokers and still provide a space for those who want to spend their breaks outside? “
“It was around this time we started thinking about encouraging staff to move over to vaping as a safer alternative to smoking. Our ‘Ditch or Switch’ policy was born.”
In July 2017 we unveiled our Smoke Free Policy to the 6,000 plus members of staff based onsite. Smoking is strictly restricted to smoking shelters. In contrast, vaping is allowed anywhere, with the exception of the doorways of occupiers’ buildings simply for the comfort of others.
We hired two ‘Smokefree Ambassadors’ who walked around Quorum at lunchtime equipped with fliers to signpost smokers to their nearest shelters. We also designed new signage and created a ‘Fresh Air’ policy – focused on the benefits of a smoke free environment.
I would encourage any local business to consider modelling our approach. Here are my top tips for implementing a smoke free policy in your workplace.
- Don’t assume you’ll get 100% compliance
There’s always going to be someone who’s going to tell you they didn’t see the sign. The idea behind a policy is to encourage staff to feel empowered and supported to challenge those who continue to smoke.
- Communicate as widely as you can
Get the message out there, clear and loud, but be careful with your language. Remember, you’re not launching an all-out war against smokers!
- Keep it positive
We focused less on the restrictions on smoking, instead celebrating the benefits of fresh air for our non-smokers.
- Keep going!
Change takes time. But with perseverance you can make a real impact to the health and wellbeing of your workforce, and improve the working environment for all.
- Be Bold!
At a recent food event we installed a large sign in the middle of the queue that read: ‘Smoking is not tolerated in this area. Smokers in the queue will not be served food’. When faced with the prospect of being denied a burger at lunchtime, suddenly everyone found the time to nip into the shelter on their way back.
What comes next for the Quorum smoking policy?
We’re hoping to build on our success by training up volunteers from across the park to act as ambassadors for the scheme, and help spread our message internally within the businesses onsite, signposting smokers to the cessation support available to them.
We are also now active members of the North Tyneside Smoke Free Alliance, so the future is looking clearer and healthier for everyone at Quorum Business Park.
The North East Better Health at Work Award (BHAWA) is a partnership workplace health initiative supported by the region’s 11 local authorities, the NHS, and coordinated by the Northern Trades Union Congress (TUC). More than 350 employers in the north east participated in the BHAWA last year, covering more than 208,000 employees. The Hub at Quorum Business Park has been involved with the award for over 3 years, and was awarded Gold status in 2017 and is undertaking the Continuing Excellence level in 2018. Maureen Turner, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust health improvement specialist, who supports businesses in North Tyneside to achieve the award, has supported the site throughout their time with the award.
Any employer can take part in the free Better Health at Work Award. For more information visit www.betterhealthatworkne.org Or contact Maureen Turner, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust Health Improvement Practitioner Specialist on 0191 270 4514.