Anti-smoking HR policies that actually work

by Lauren Acurantes06 Feb 2017
Companies in Japan are going to great lengths to help their staff quit smoking, implementing HR programmes such as smoke break flags, fines, and ‘smokebusters’ committees.

A recent mandate issued by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare said that workplaces should be non-smoking environments.

In response to this, many companies have taken creative measures in helping employees kick the habit.

For example, Acroquest Technology Co., an IT company based in Yokohama, set a time limit (seven minutes) on an employee’s smoke break and requires them to put up a flag at their workspace indicating that they are on a smoke break. Additionally, the worker is fined 1,000 yen if a call comes in during their break.

“When we look for new hires, we don't accept them unless they stop smoking in the summer the year before they start working for us,” noted office manager Tatsuo Suzuki to The Mainichi, adding that one unexpected outcome of the imposed rules was that the company attracted higher quality talent.

Suzuki also said that before they implemented their plans, more than 30% of the employees were smokers, but now they have a completely smoke-free workforce. 

Real estate investment firm Fuji Plan, on the other hand, declared Tuesdays as non-smoking days and employees are given a ‘loyalty card’. For every Tuesday that they go without a smoke, an employee gets a stamp on the card. 

Ten stamps entitle them to a product that helps them quit smoking, thirty gives them a chance to have a free dinner with a member of the ‘smokebusters committee’. The company has also taken to using aromatherapy and yoga to help alleviate their employees’ stress and hopefully, encourage them to quit smoking.

“Instead of trying to force people to quit, we came up with measures that respect employees' autonomy,” said Mika Kawada, a member of the ‘smokebusters committee’.

"In Japan, there's the sense that smoking is an issue of etiquette, but it's more a health issue," commented a Pfizer Japan representative.

"Non-smokers in Japan have less of an interest in the issue of secondhand smoke than in Europe and the U.S., which may be a reason why implementation of measures to limit or eliminate smoking has been slow to progress," they added.

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