News that Breckland council in Norfolk is proposing a clocking in/out system for cigarette breaks can only be greeted with dismay.
And so it should to any reasonable person. The arguments against this idiocy have been made elsewhere, so I won’t rehearse them again. The thing with the anti brigade, whether it is anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-obesity or any other activity the puritans take a dislike to, is that if you allow them a millimetre, they’ll steal a parsec and come back to cut out your heart. They are a many-headed hydra that is never satisfied.
There are two main problems with Breckland’s proposal: the petty determination to change behaviours and lifestyles, and the ever-creeping culture of presenteeism that the council seems to be encouraging.
These are valid points. It is not up to employers to change behaviours and lifestyles. Outside of work, how we live our lives is none of their damned business. I have always made a point of keeping my professional life and my private life separate and have never allowed employers into that private space – because it is none of their damned business.
The other point is a cancer that is creeping into our attitudes – the idea that we must be present for hours, days, weeks on end, irrespective of whether we actually achieve anything productive. There comes a point where we cease to be productive because we are burned out. Breaks are a necessity to help us re-charge. A decent lunch break means coming back to the job feeling refreshed and ready to face the rest of the day. A balance between work and the rest of our lives is essential for our physical and mental health and our productivity.
The idea that smokers are taking more breaks than non-smokers is anecdotal. As a non-smoker, I take breaks, too. Sometimes, I’ve been known to wander out with a smoking colleague and while she puffed away, we would discuss a work problem. I didn’t die, by the way. Sometimes we would wander round to the local cafe, while we ruminated on some work issue over an alfresco coffee and a fag. Just getting out of the office away from the ringing phones gave us a different perspective. It helped.
Padraig is right, therefore.
But, do go and read the comments. There are some gems in there. It is reading such stuff you realise just how much misanthropy is out there in Guardian-land…
We don’t hire smokers, the cost too much in health benefits and time off work. It is pretty easy to detect them in an interview, they smell bad.
Personally, I consider every hindrance – or “punishment” – to smoking wellcome. Smokers are harming themselves, they are harming other people through passive smoking they have to endure, they are harming their loved ones when the eventual medical difficulties caused by smoking arrives and they are going to end up causing the society to pay for their addiction. I don’t think they need any pampering, just shovel more hindrance and guilt over them, it’s going to save money and lives.
And another thing, they should not be allowed to smoke directly outside pubs either. There is little worse then having to walk through a thick fog of cancerous fumes and bedraggled desperate addicts as I go in for my evening pint.
I think I’ll stop there before I slit my own throat.