Smoking: A Career Killer?

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

My co-workers and I were having a discussion over lunch about whether or not smoking can have an effect on your career potential. As a non-smoker, I think smoking not only affects your health but also how people perceive you as an employee. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Thanks!

SmokingHi, Concerned Co-workers:

In my opinion, smoking can definitely have a negative effect on your career. According to a New York Times article, one in every five Americans smoke on a regular basis and, on average, employees who smoke cost employers $3,391 more a year for health care and lost productivity. If your company has 500 employees, this alone can cost almost $1.7 million a year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that cigarette smoking costs companies more than $193 billion (i.e., $97 billion in lost productivity plus $96 billion in health care expenditures).

Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking at the effects of smoking on your career or business.

  • The smell of cigarette smoke lingers on your clothing. People who do not smoke may be annoyed, repulsed, or dismissive of those who come in to the office smelling of stogies.
  • Smoking breaks can take a huge chunk of time out of the day. On average, it takes 3-5 minutes to smoke a cigarette. If you look at my post Time Theft: Is It Really a Crime? you can see how much in lost profits just two smoke breaks a day can amount to over the course of the year.
  • Smoking comes with its own set of negative connotations. Hiring employers or managers may view this habit as a red flag and think that the person is negligent or lazy.
  • Studies estimate that smokers are two to three times more often absent from work.
  • Smoking2Smoking may be deal breakers in a company’s hiring policy. More companies are adopting policies that stipulate that smokers will not be hired in states where it is legal to do so. If you are a smoker, you could be limiting your opportunities for hire or advancement. The Towers Watson survey found that 4% of companies have adopted such a policy and 2% more are expected to each year. In the same survey, 52% of companies banned smoking on office property, a number that’s expected to increase to 60% next year. Meanwhile, 42% of companies use surcharges for tobacco users at approximately $50/month to cover health care costs.

Smoking is not only bad for your health; it has the potential to kill your career.

See below for a great video on both sides of the issue:

Readers, what are your thoughts on this issue? Should employers be able to ban smoking at the workplace and be allowed to not hire someone because of their habit?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Too Sick, or Not Too Sick…

Dear Anita,

I feel a cold coming on!  I need to get work done at the office, but I’m just not feeling 100%.  Also, many of my colleagues tend to give the “evil eye” when colleagues are coughing/sneezing in the office.  Do you have any tips on when it is okay to take a sick day, and when it is not?

Sick_KidDear, Under the Weather,

I am sorry to hear that you are not feeling your best. Coming down with a cold can really put a damper on both personal and professional obligations. Being too sick to work or not sick enough to stay home is a very fine line that is, more often than not, as clear as mud. This leaves you asking the question, what should I do? With cold and flu season in full swing, let’s clear the air and get down to how to handle it.

My general advice is to err on the side of caution, take care of yourself, and stay home for the day. If you are unsure of what to do, even after hearing advice from an old lady like me, here are some questions to ask that might help clarify your dilemma, courtesy of WebMD.

  • How well can you perform your job when you are feeling like death is knocking at your door?
  • Are you contagious and putting your coworkers at risk?
  • Will rest be the best course of action for your body and well-being?
  • Are you being prescribed medications that may make it unsafe for you to drive to work or perform your job duties?
  • Would you like it if your coworkers came to the office and exposed you to an illness?

Sick_WomanIf you are still undecided or afraid of what your employer might think of you missing work, visit your local urgent care center or schedule an appointment with your doctor. Odds are, they will side with me and suggest that you take it easy and avoid stressful/strenuous activities. If you are worried your manager will not take your illness seriously enough, request that your doctor write a note explaining that you are sick and are unable to work.  If missing work entirely is not an option, try speaking with your manager about performing your job duties at home (if it applies to your position).

So take my advice, Under the Weather, and take a day or two off from work to rest and recuperate. Drink plenty of fluids, sip on warm tea, get your fill of nutritious soup, and give yourself time to get better. Trust me, when it is all said and done, you and your coworkers will greatly appreciate it.

Readers: What are your thoughts on staying home sick or coming to work? Do you have secret trick or “remedy” that you use to help you bounce back fast?

Wishing you a speedy recovery!

Anita A-choo

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Refusing Employer Advances

Hi, Anita:

I have a huge problem that I need help addressing. Just recently we had a change in management and my new manager has been making comments that make me very uncomfortable and are beginning to creep me out. I do not want to quit my job. I just want this to stop! Help!

Dear, Avoiding Awkward Advances:

There is almost nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable and uneasy in your workplace. It is unfair and illegal to be made to feel this way. Sexual harassment is a very touchy subject can teeter between intentional advances and harmless playful comments. Your problem may need a simple straightening out, or it could take further action. Now let us get down to how to fix the problem, shall we?

Man_Call_meAs uncomfortable and cringe-worthy as this may sound, confronting the person in a respectful and professional manner should be your first step. It may be a misunderstanding, or the aggressor may not find his/her comments to be threatening or off-putting. If this is the case, you can sweep the problem off your plate and continue on with your work. It may be good to send an email notifying the person of how you are feeling in case you need additional support if things take a turn for the worst.

If it continues, begin writing down every time your supervisor makes comments or actions toward you that make you feel uneasy. Note the time, date, place, and detailed description of the incident. These notes will come in handy later down the line. Be sure to keep these notes in a safe place where they cannot be accessed by your manager or other co-workers. Your personal computer is a good place for these.

Immediately report the incident to Human Resources. Request a one-on-one meeting with your HR Rep. All discussions between Woman_Concernedyou and your HR rep should be confidential, but it can’t hurt to reiterate your desire for discretion before you begin speaking. Bring any documentation and explain how this makes you feel. Do not hold back. You deserve to work in a comfortable environment.

Remember that you should never be ashamed for the way you feel. If you are uncomfortable, it is your right to stand up for yourself. Who knows? You may not be the only one experiencing these advances.

Take a look at this short video about how to recognize and handle sexual harassment in your workplace:

Readers: What other actions could you recommend that will help resolve this issue? Have you been in a similar situation that you are willing to share?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Rewards From Retreats

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I have a team of about 10 people who have been working incredibly hard over the past few months. I want to reinforce their positive attitudes and keep the group productivity and focus flowing through a department retreat. But I am in need of some pointers to make sure the outing is both rewarding and beneficial to our group. Please help!

Dear, Retreat Ready,

Department retreats are a great way to step out of the office setting and focus on reinforcing strengths of a group or addressing areas for improvement. They help
re-center and boost creative thinking and break through the monotony of daily activities and tasks, so your employees will return to work feeling refreshed and rejuvenated by the change of pace. Retreats also promote team unity and strengthen the commitment of the group toward a common goal. I suggest you schedule a retreat at Handsleast once or twice a year.

To make a retreat produce top results, your group must be comfortable, the presentations interactive, and the topic relevant. Here is a list of things you can do to put together a fun and productive staff retreat:

Provide breakfast or morning snacks, such as coffee or muffins. Your employees will appreciate the gesture. Added bonus: Now they will not have an excuse for low energy while participating in the activities.

Encourage participants to dress comfortably and on the casual side. It can help set a tone of relaxation and remove any stuffiness that should be left at the office.

Ask your team to be prepared with real-life work achievements and issues. Sharing successes and troubles will help the group come together as one to revel in wins and to find solutions to obstacles standing in the way. Make sure you give your team enough time to prepare before the meeting – don’t spring it on them in the room – and make sure they know you expect them to participate in the discussion.

Start the retreat with an “ice breaker.”  To start your meeting off on the right foot, play a fun game or activity that brings your team closer together. The more fun and crazy, the better! One example is to have each person share something about them that is not work-related. To keep everyone at ease, be sure to make a point to say that sharing is encouraged but not required. Check out this list of funny questions to integrate into your ice breakers. My personal favorite is “If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be?” Some may disagree, but I am going along the lines of a chili. I like to think I am spicy!

Get people involved. Create a space for open discussion and creative thinking. Challenge your team to stir the creative juices and really think outside the box. Sharing thoughts with the team and encouraging feedback and input are where great ideas are shaped and big accomplishments take place. Keep your eyes out for a post I have in the works about hosting a successful brainstorming session.

Don’t just stand there; get up and move. Plan to have lunch off-site from the retreat. It will give your group time to stretch their legs, socialize with group, and develop relationships outside of the office. Make sure to pick a place that isn’t too loud and has a little something for everyone in attendance.

Provide visuals whenever possible. These are great for keeping the energy up and tstimulating the creative parts of the brain. Plus, I wouldn’t want to listen to me yap all day long. Throw monotony out the door and bring some images and videos into the mix.

Build in some competition and some prizes. Offer some goodies for good ideas shared, the quickest right answer to your question, and more. People love to win free stuff, and it will get your group talking and volunteering information faster.

End with a bang! People will most likely be starting to wind down after all the fun activities and discussions you have had during the day. Give everyone a little something to take home with them that ensures things end on a positive note! A card acknowledging their hard work and dedication to your team and a bag of M&Ms is just the right thing to accomplish this.

Managers, what interesting activities or ideas have you come up with to create a rewarding retreat? What were your results?

Employees, what types of activities have you participated in that worked well and others that fell short?

I can’t wait to hear from you all.

Best wishes until next time,
Anita

Stopping Work Space Soreness

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

I have just started working at a new job a few months ago. I went from working outside and being on my feet all day to spending my day seated at a desk. I have heard that even though you may not be doing much physically, you can still cause serious injuries to your body. What can I do to prevent ailments such as neck and back soreness or carpal tunnel syndrome?

Uncomfortable Woman at DeskThanks for the question! Over the years with the increased use of computers and other technology, a significant number of folks in the workplace have settled in to a more stationary work style behind a desk. But spending 8 hour or more a day sitting is not the way our bodies were designed! Many people are facing aches and pains from inefficient and inadequate workspace set-ups. The official word for this sort of thing is “ergonomics.” Proper ergonomics can make a world of difference in your office life by reducing the potential for accidents, injuries, and poor health. To top it off, being ergonomic makes you a better performer and increases productivity. Who doesn’t like that?

Here are some key areas you need to keep in mind when redesigning your current workspace or moving into another one.Happy Woman at Desk

  1. Keep your feet flat on the floor. As much fun as it may be to dangle your feet during the day, it will not be much fun recuperating from an injured back due to lack of support.
  2. Make sure the top of your monitor(s) is just below eye level when you are seated. This will save you from neck strain and discomfort.
  3. Keep your head and neck in line with your torso and spine. Maintaining this balance will better distribute the weight through your spine and torso.
  4. Try to keep your shoulders as relaxed as possible when seated at your desk. Try rolling your shoulders forward and backward every 30 minutes or so to keep them loose and unwound.
  5.  When typing or using your computer, have plenty of room for your mouse and keyboard. Monitors should be 18-24 inches away from you. Keep wrists and hands in line with your forearms — all while having your elbows close to your body.

If your space needs updating to make it meet your ergonomic standards, talk to your supervisor or human resources representative. Remind them that good ergonomics makes good economic sense. Fewer injuries or illnesses equal a more productive and profitable workforce.

One thing I found to be very helpful is to get up and move throughout the day. Take a walk around the block, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or replace your chair with an exercise ball for half of the day. Not only will this help you feel more comfortable at your desk, but it will often lift your spirits and give you a rush of energy to help you power through projects on your plate.

Here is a quirky video I found on ergonomics in the workplace.

Now I want to hear from YOU! What do you do to keep yourself comfortable and healthy throughout the work day?

Wishing you wellness,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Want to receive these tips by email? Simply subscribe for once-a-week tips and tricks for career success!

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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