A company in Japan, where smoking is deeply ingrained into culture, decided to do something about it. After a non-smoking employee submitted a complaint about how smoke breaks were affecting productivity, marketing firm Piala Inc. made a change to its paid time off policy.
The company granted non-smoking staff an additional six days off each year to make up for the time smokers take for cigarette breaks.
A higher percent of Japanese adults smoke than Americans. It was only this past year that the percentage of Japanese adults who smoke fell below 20 percent. According to the World Health Organization, Japanese men are three times more likely to smoke than Japanese women.
Hirotaka Matsushima, a spokesman for Piala Inc., told The Telegraph, “One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in 2017 saying that smoking breaks were causing problems.”
Piala, which has its headquarters in a Tokyo high-rise, and about 35 percent of employees smokers, the cigarette breaks had become disruptive. The company’s offices are on the 29th floor, but the smoking area is in the building’s basement, meaning employees are away on breaks for up to 15 minutes at a time.
The change in company policy has been intended to encourage staff to quit smoking, “I hope to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties or coercion.”
So far, the incentive has had some success. After the offer was announced in September, four employees had decided to give up smoking, the company said.
The rollout of the new benefit comes as other companies in Japan grapple with how to encourage their own workers to make healthier choices and as the government faces international pressure to crack down on public smoking before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.