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/.

Making Time To Exercise

A reader writes:

Hi Anita,

I have sworn to myself that this will be the year that I successfully keep my New Year’s Resolution. For many years, I have tried to eat healthier, make smarter choices, and get more exercise into my daily routine but I seem to fall of the wagon in a matter of weeks. What can I do to make sure I succeed at my goal and become a healthier, better me?

Thanks for the question, Eager to Exercise,Man Stretching at the Office

During the holiday season, many of us see our weight creep up on the scales — to the point that we make Santa Claus himself look like a runway model! One too many of Grandma’s famous cookies or an extra helping of mashed potatoes here and there can really expand the waistline. It is no wonder that the top New Year’s Resolution is to become more physically fit and get healthy, according to a survey conducted by FC Organizational Products in December 2011. With the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, where can you find the time to fit in exercise and smart diet choices? I have a few ideas that will help you be more active, involved in your health, and keep your resolutions all year long – even at work!

  • Avoid the elevators. Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Park your car at the far end of the lot. Depending on the size of your parking lot or structure, you can make up for the half of a cookie you grabbed walking out the door. Remember, every step counts!
  • If possible, walk or bike to work. You are already leaving time to complete your standard commute. At least double your normal commute time and put your shoes and pedals to the pavement.
  • Find more opportunities to stand while working. Standing will increase blood flow throughout your body and relieve some soreness from muscles. It also takes more effort from your body to stand than it does to sit. Try taking a call with a head set or trade emails and phone calls for a walk over to a co-worker’s desk.
  • Make room for a quickie walk. Utilize your allotted break times or put 20 minutes of your lunch break aside to take a brisk walk around the building, either outside or inside.
  • Swap out your regular office chair for a large fitness ball.
  • Rise and shine. Wake up an hour or so earlier and take a fitness class at a local gym. By the time you get to work, you will be running on the energy you just earned at the gym and you also have freed up a whole hour after work for other activities.
  • Bring your exercise clothes to work with you. Anything you can do to make getting a workout in easier the better. You are also limiting your excuses for not making it to your sweat session.
  • Keep a set of these guys (look left) at your desk.
  • Make a run for it. Bring your lunch to work with you and swing by the gym on your lunch break. Even 25 minutes of exercise will have a positive effect on your day and health. Once you get back to the office, eat at your desk and refuel from your great workout.
  • Join or start a sports team at your work. Gather your co-workers for a game of kickball or basketball after work. Having other people depending on you and holding you accountable for the team will make it harder for you to wimp out at the last minute.
  • Snack the smart way. At all costs, avoid the vending machines at your office. These on -the-go food facilities are full of high sugar, calorie, and salt options with little to no nutritional value. Keep healthy snacks like fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, raw veggies, and yogurt with you or in the office fridge. For tips on how to keep it safe from thieves, check out my post, “Bring Your Own Lunch, Bandit.”

DumbellsI hope these tips help you stay on track with your New Year’s Resolution goals. Remember that it takes time to transition into new habits and ways of life. Make your goals small and achievable. If you have a slip-up or fall off the tracks, don’t give up. Pick yourself back up and start fresh.

What are you trying to achieve in 2013? What advice do you have for others trying to make their goals in the New Year?

For a quick workout while you are at the office, check out the video below!

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

Best of Luck,
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/.

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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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