Written by 3:27 pm Freelance, Digital Nomad & Remote Work

Remote Workers Are More Likely to Adopt Smoking Habits: Why This Happens and How to Address It

Despite return-to-office mandates across the country, working remotely is here to stay. This USA Today article reports on a survey that found only 38% of companies require employees to report to the office full-time. This is in line with current employee sentiments that value the time they regain from not having to commute and not having to pay for transportation. But even though there are time- and money-saving benefits to working from home (WFH), remote workers may be more susceptible to poorer health habits, such as smoking. In fact, there are several reasons remote working increases smoking prevalence.

Working (and smoking) from home

A 2024 global umbrella review published in the Journal of Occupational Health found that WFH was associated with an increased prevalence of tobacco and alcohol consumption. According to the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, this may be because of lower accountability. Office workers have limited opportunities to smoke throughout the day. Conversely, without supervisors around, remote workers can light up more often.

Additionally, WFH employees tend to be more stressed, with the average worker clocking in 10% more weekly hours. In total, according to Gallup data, 45% of remote employees are more likely to experience higher stress levels, compared to only 38% of non-WFH employees. Stress is a top contributor to tobacco consumption and a primary trigger for relapse. But while cigarettes might provide temporary stress relief, they can have negative effects on an employee’s overall well-being. According to Tobacco Control, smoking increases annual sick leaves by 10.7 days per employee. The average smoking employee also takes four ten-minute smoke breaks a day, which likely increases at home, where there are generally no smoking restrictions. This impacts productivity and efficacy. Finally, smoking is associated with an increased prevalence of depression and anxiety, which can impact both personal and professional outcomes. Thus, it is critical for remote workers to begin a smoking cessation journey as soon as possible.

Ways to stave off smoking

Adopt alternatives

To facilitate a smooth transition away from cigarettes, remote workers can consider nicotine alternatives. Nicotine pouches, in particular, can be used indoors and discreetly throughout the workday. These alternatives come in a variety of strengths and flavors, so every smoker can find an individual approach. This includes veteran smokers, who are the most compelled to smoke throughout the day. To illustrate, tobacco-free White Fox pouches available here come in strengths as high as 30mg for heavy smokers. It also comes in flavors like Black Edition, which mimics the taste of tobacco, and this familiarity could potentially ease the transition. Other indoor-friendly formats include gums and lozenges. Brands like Blip offer these alternatives, which slowly release nicotine doses. The Blip Fruit Freeze Gum 4mg is an option for short nicotine breaks at one’s desk, helping to manage cravings without affecting productivity. While not risk-free, these options may minimize the health impacts explicitly associated with tobacco and cigarette smoke. 

Visit co-working spaces

Unsurveilled work time may result in less healthy habits like smoking. Thus, WFH employees can restore an office-like sense of routine into their lives by checking into nearby co-working spaces. This can benefit prospective quitters in various ways. One, it creates a more distinct separation between one’s working and resting space, which helps establish boundaries that may encourage work-life balance. As noted in this post, it’s important to get out of bed when you cannot sleep as this helps maintain the boundaries of your working and rest areas. This same principle applies during the workday. Two, co-working puts smokers in the company of others, making it harder to smoke as they please and encouraging behavior correction. 

Maintain physical activity

As mentioned, stress is a major smoking trigger. One way for quitters to minimize relapses is to incorporate more physical activity during their work breaks. Small and simple changes in the home, such as compact products from the IKEA DAJLIEN collection, can encourage remote workers to move more. The donut-shaped DAJLIEN 3kg Weights are small enough to be stored near or on a work desk. Even in a small space, employees can engage in simple cardio and strength training exercises with such equipment. Physical activity has long been known to reduce stress levels, which can stave off smoking. It also reintroduces the heart and lungs to less sedentary activity levels, which may improve health outcomes. 

As work setups evolve, employees can adopt a more balanced lifestyle by nixing unhealthy smoking habits, creating productivity-conducive work environments, and increasing their exercise frequency. This can help WFH employees regain control of their overall health.

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