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Stealing time

As an important and integral part of my campaign to reduce our staff members’ smoking habits and thereby reduce the lost working hours due to their smoking breaks — the cost of which is currently estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — I recently offered every member of our management and operations teams the opportunity to use our hotel spa gym facilities free of charge at certain times of the day if they promised to quit smoking and if they obtained the green light from a physician.

Unfortunately, from a total workforce of 200, only 13 applied, which was a little disappointing, but it’s a “healthy” start and one that I will pursue all the way to the finish line by providing additional financial incentives for our people to quit smoking and recover their health and by doing so recover and maximize our productivity, which is being constantly interrupted at the present time by these out-of-control and unauthorized smoking breaks.

For example, if a smoker sneaks outside for a cigarette or two once an hour for 10 minutes and repeats that routine over an average nine-hour working day, then we lose 90 minutes of his or her time — time that should have been spent more industriously. 

I have no official data on the numbers of smokers on our team, but I believe it’s in the region of 75%, which is an alarmingly high ratio, even for this part of the world where smoking is still allowed in many restaurants, public places and 5-star hotels. (This property allowed our managers to smoke in their offices and our guests to smoke in 75% of our rooms and suites, coffee shop and lobby prior to my arrival, but I soon “extinguished” that unhealthy practice, much to the relief and delight of my non-smoking guests and team members.)   

What also amazes me at this particular time of the year is that although all our Muslim staff members must abstain from smoking during the fasting period, as soon as the sun sets, after 15 hours or more without nicotine, they immediately light up despite having managed without a cigarette for more than half the day.

I will post quarterly results from the campaign on my blog as we progress, a campaign which includes a future ban on employing smokers, separating smokers and non-smokers in our staff accommodation buildings, arranging sports days and nights out to fun places for non-smokers and, as mentioned above, financial incentives paid to those who give up smoking successfully for one year — including a free return air ticket to their home country and a cash bonus.

Why am I doing this? Well, because a healthy workforce is a focused and productive workforce, and because it’s the right thing for a caring employer to do.

My next post on the same subject of stealing time will deal with the amount of time stolen — no other word for it — by our people staring down at their personal cell phones during working hours, time which I measured recently by asking one member of our team to record honestly and exactly the amount of time she spent looking at her cell phone during a typical nine-hour shift. The honest result, validated by CCTV, was around three minutes every 15 minutes, which adds up to 108 minutes — or approximately 1.5 hours per shift every day.

Multiply that by 200 associates, and we get approximately 300 hours of lost productivity per day (presuming all are on duty over a 24-hour shift) from unauthorized cell phone viewing.

How do you deal with these antisocial (smoking) and social (networking) issues, or do you just accept them as part of the modern DNA of our business? I don’t, and I never will.

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