Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Hard at work?

Hot on the heels of my apparently pro-smoking rant comes this, possibly in the interests of balance, or possibly not.

I work as a desk pilot in an office where everyone is expected to put in a good nine hours a day. The office is non-smoking, which is good news for those individuals who have no need for nicotine, and bad news for the tobacco addicts.

Or is it? The smokers habitually step outside into the corridor, stair well or even outside five floors below to indulge in their habit. As far as I know, it is impossible to use a word processor, AutoCAD or a spreadsheet, less use the office intranet whilst propping up a wall several metres away from the workstation. Meanwhile, non-smokers remain at their desks, busily pounding away at keyboard and mouse.

How long does it take to smoke a cigarette? Five minutes, by the time a casual conversation with others is taken into account? Is six smoke breaks a day a reasonable estimate? If so, a non-smoker (and for these purposes someone who only smokes during lunch break or outside office hours counts as a non-smoker) is putting in an additional two-and-a-half hours a week of actual work, or over one day a month. Smoke breaks, of course, never appear on the timesheets as non-productive time; I for one object to paying a design engineer for the hours he or she spends smoking. There would be uproar if I took one day a month off, claiming I was taking all my smoke breaks. It was bad enough when everyone in my office stepped outside for a social chat and a cigarette (again), and I downed tools and started surfing the net. Apparently, the official line is non-smokers don't get smoke breaks and have to work more hours.

What of the additional costs of sickness owing to smoking-related illnesses? Well, at least being off sick doesn't get charged to individual projects.

I once knew someone who worked in the non-smoking office in an armaments store. The trade union had negotiated four ten-minute smoke breaks per day, but the designated smoking area was a 15-minute walk from the office. Health and Safety had decreed a minimum safe distance from any ordnance. Two hours and 40 minutes a day of paid idleness for each smoker, whilst a non-smoker had to continue to work. That's the British civil service for you.

Incidentally, during the holy month of Ramadan it is against the law here for anyone not just Muslims, to be seen smoking (and also eating or drinking) between dawn and dusk. Everyone can manage all day without a nicotine hit for one month, so why not every month?

1 comment:

El Casareño Ingles said...

I now live in Spain where the govt. has beaten the UK to the post in this line - the ban in bars and the workplace came into force on 1st Jan. The expat press has been very vocal on this. 'Quiosco' owners have gone on strike and demonstarted against the law. The effect of the law? Smoking is now baned in the workplace - period. If you need a puff, go outside, outside. Bars have managed to work a way around the law - if under 100 sq.metres they can choose to allow smoking, but as a consequence must ban under 18s from the premises.

The weather does not prevent me from smoking outside and I can walk into any one of half a dozen bars in a 100m radius and smoke there. So far I have found ONE non-smoking establishment - a Brit owned pizza parlour.

Methinks the Spanish govt. is choosing revenue (or is that freedom) over health here.


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