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I have met with countless employers who would like to make their workplace tobacco-free. We are all aware of why this is an important strategy, but employers often don’t know where to begin. This is a big step for a workplace and should be treated accordingly. The employer and the employee will need to adapt to the change, which for some could strongly impact their day-to-day life.

As with any organizational change, the keys to success are planning, setting clear goals and a well-thought-out communication plan.

Going tobacco-free is no different. And the good news is any movement towards becoming tobacco-free is in the right direction. If it takes months or years to get there, the groundwork laid will bring forth future success.

So let’s talk about that groundwork or baby steps you can take to become a tobacco-free workplace. 

Set a goal

When most employers start this journey, their goal is to become a tobacco-free workplace. However, that may not be reasonable and could take considerable time and effort. Take the time to assess where your organization is and where you want to be; then clearly define your goal. Is it to become a 100% tobacco-free workplace or relocate tobacco use zones? Is it to implement a comprehensive policy on tobacco use at the workplace? Is it to implement a tobacco use surcharge?

Once your goal is clear, you can move forward with the steps you need to take to accomplish your goal. And remember, any step is a step in the right direction.

Research

Policy, policy and more policy! It’s critical to have a working knowledge of the current laws, regulations, and amendments related to tobacco use in the workplace. Allow yourself time to read and understand this information. A great baby step is reviewing your organization’s current tobacco use policy and evaluating what elements need to be added to make it comprehensive.

Align your research with your goal. If your goal is to implement a surcharge for tobacco users, you want to take a deep dive into the rules that govern how this can be done in the workplace.

Create a toolkit

Now that you’ve selected your goal and researched what you need to do to be in compliance with the goal, it’s time to create your toolkit. What do you need to make this goal a reality?

What are the critical components you need to achieve your goal? Let’s walk through an example. If your goal is to relocate the current tobacco use zones, then your toolkit could consist of the following items: the building policy in your area, a communication guide for employees and leadership, estimates and options from contractors or internal resources on structural costs, and timelines when work can begin and reach completion.

Buy in

At this point, you are ready to get buy-in from leadership, employees and the key teams you’ll need to support you along the way.

With every audience you meet with, clearly communicate the why behind the decision and what everyone stands to gain. With leadership, you’ll want to be prepared with research and statistics, address concerns on the spot and be flexible yet committed in order to gain their approval. With employees, it is critical to be transparent and thorough. Address their questions directly, have empathy, and most importantly, keep the communication stream open and ongoing.

You’re ready!

With the previous steps completed, you’re ready to implement your well–thought-out plan. Go forth on your journey to bring a safer, healthier workplace to everyone in your organization.

Any step you take is a step in the right direction. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Your efforts at the beginning of this process will take you down a path that fits your organization where it is today and where it wants to be in the future. Even if you get stuck at step 2 or 3 longer than anticipated, progress is progress. Good luck!

 

 

Brooke Kelly

About Brooke Kelly

Brooke Kelly leads the Client Health Promotion Team at Blue Cross NC. She enjoys teaching personal resilience workshops and helping employers succeed with their worksite wellness offerings. Brooke loves watching football, traveling, and spending time outside with her son and daughter.

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