Did you know that your agents’ smoking habits could be driving up your sickness rate? Here are some fun ideas to help them quit.
A news story has suggested that employee sickness absences related to smoking are costing the Welsh contact centre industry alone up to £1.6m a year. Concerns were also raised about the potential impact on voice performance quality.
1. Ask your agents to create a “why I want to quit” board
A good way to focus your agents and kick-start their motivation is to ask them to create a “why I want to quit smoking” board.
Dedicate one of your noticeboards to this purpose, preferably in a public place like a break-out room. Then ask your agents to decorate it with handwritten reasons, photos of their family, or postcards of holiday destinations they would like to visit with the money they will save.
This should help to promote a sense of camaraderie as your agents embark on their journey to quit smoking. It will also act as a constant reminder.
2. Create daily distractions
It is very easy in such a regimented working environment to become accustomed to the 11am “smoking break”.
One way to break this habit is to organise a series of activities to fill in those tempting lunch or break times with fun alternatives to the smoking terrace.
For example, a friendly table tennis tournament, a yoga session, or even a weekly team lunch can all give your agents a reason to stay inside.
3. Buddy agents up with a non-smoker during break times
Another way to help break the smoking-terrace habit is to buddy your agents up with a non-smoking member of their team.
It will be the job of the non-smoker to take their new buddy under their wing and invite them to visit the cafeteria or break-out room, as they normally would during their breaks.
4. Help agents keep their hands busy
It is equally important to help your agents keep their hands busy.
Sticks of liquorice, ice lollies, hairbands, elastic bands, Blu-Tack and even bottles of water are all cheap and subtle ways to keep your agents’ hands busy without their familiar cigarette.
5. Add to a growing “prize fund” every non-smoking day
All you need for this exercise is a sheet of A4 paper.
Simply ask your agents to say (honestly) how much they spend on cigarettes per day, and to set a goal not to smoke for 5, 10 or 20 working days.
Every day the agent doesn’t smoke at work, they can bank a day’s worth of cigarette money. This can then accumulate over the week for a treat on Saturday.
For example, an agent with a 20-cigarettes-a-day habit will be saving approximately £8 every day they go without. After 5 days, or 1 working week, this will equate to £40.
You can display this information in a table (similar to the below), which can be stuck up in each agent’s workstation.
To boost the positive impact of this exercise, start off with small achievable goals and encourage your agents to talk about the treats they have bought for themselves. You can also use your wallboards to publicly acknowledge your agents’ progress and achievements.
6. A 50p fine for each cigarette
A “fine box” box is a great way to bring a bit of consequence to your motivational efforts. It will also require minimal reinforcement, as peer pressure should do the trick in making agents “pay up”.
It is easy to set up, too. You just need to place a money box or even a coffee jar on a designated team leader’s desk. Agents then pay a 50p fine for every cigarette smoked during the working day.
You can then count up the money at the end of the week and either donate it to charity or put it towards a “sweets and treats” fund.
As this figure is loosely based on the average cost of a cigarette, the pot of money each week will also help to drive home the true financial cost of their habit.
7. Take steps to reduce overall stress levels in your contact centre
By its very nature, contact centre work is stressful, but there are steps you can take to reduce the overall impact on your agents.
Ideas span from introducing regular massage and yoga sessions, to trusting and empowering your agents (and not treating them like children).
For more ideas on maintaining a happier, stress-free contact centre, see our article –
Changing your business culture for the better can help your agents live healthier, happier lives – which don’t centre around cigarettes or glasses of wine.