After receiving an employee complaint about how cigarette breaks are affecting productivity, a Tokyo-based firm decided to take action.
Takao Asuka, the CEO of Marketing firm Piala Inc., implemented a policy granting their non-smoking employees an additional six days of paid time off each year. This was mandated to compensate for the time that their smoking staff spends whenever they go on their cigarette breaks. The firm is reportedly located on the 29th floor of an office block, making at least one cigarette break last for 15 minutes long.
This is said to have taken a toll on the company’s productivity, prompting one of its non-smoking employees to raise the concern via the firm’s suggestion box. Apparently, some employees feel that their smoking co-workers spend time away from their desks for way too long, which equates to them working fewer hours as compared to those individuals who don’t take smoke breaks.
Dubbed by many as a “smoker’s paradise”, one can’t argue that cigarette smoking is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. In fact, according to an annual survey conducted by Japan Tobacco in 2017, the percentage of male and female smokers in 2017 was 28.2% and 9.0%, respectively.
The stark difference doesn’t come as a surprise at all, as a group of men in business suits surrounded by wafts of smoke is not an uncommon sight in most Japanese cities. Also, according to the World Health Statistics 2016 compiled by the World Health Organization, Japan ranked 60th overall out of 128 countries who had the highest rate of male smoking among Group of Seven countries.
Smoking is considered a national issue, as approximately 130,000 people die in Japan due to smoking-related-diseases and an additional 15,000 die of secondhand smoke-related illnesses, according to WHO official, Susan Mercado. For that reason, measures to reduce the number of smokers and the imposition of stricter anti-smoking policies are recently being witnessed in Japan.
In July 2017, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike made plans of imposing a smoking ban on all public places across the capital, with the objective of making the city smoke-free ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The CEO meant for the new company policy to benefit not only their company operations but also the personal lives of their employees. This change in policy is intended to encourage staff to let go of the vice and lead healthier lives. “I hope to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties or coercion.”, said CEO Asuka.
The good news is that it seems like the policy’s desired effect is being realized, as one of its smoking employees supposedly cut down on his cigarette consumption. Shun Shinbaba told CNNMoney that he used to smoke a pack of cigarettes every two days. But now, he plans to use his earned vacation time to play tennis. Also, 4 of the company’s 42 smoking staff have already given up the habit.
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