Employer and employees perceptions about smoking: Qualitative research
Summary of findings
Overview: Employer Reactions
Employer respondents comprised those with a responsibility for Employees’ welfare and wellbeing, often HR personnel but by no means exclusively, especially in small organisations where this role was often incorporated into that of Director or MD. Virtually across the board amongst Employers the offer of quit smoking support in the workplace was welcomed, based on concerns amongst the respondents for staff welfare and acknowledging the role such support could play in retention and motivation of staff. Barriers emerging were largely logistical, reflecting uncertainty as to how such a programme might be feasible in organisations where Employees were either predominantly off-site, worked shifts / part time or were required to be on call, even when on a break.
Overview: Employee Reactions
Employees’ initial reaction to the offer of stop smoking support in the workplace was one of scepticism and incredulity, both for logistical reasons and because they found it difficult to believe that their Employer would either be interested in this or be able to fit it into the working day. However, this somewhat negative reaction rapidly gave way to enthusiastic acceptance. On one level, there was acceptance that nothing else had worked for them, so a workplace based initiative was worth a try. On a more positive level, there was recognition that the concept was in fact motivating. The workplace was a good context, in that it would be easier to attend sessions at work than in their own (limited) time.
In conclusion, offering quit smoking support in the workplace appeared motivating for Employers and Employees alike, and what barriers did exist were, in the main, logistical ones. However, these logistical barriers were seen as near insurmountable amongst some small companies, those with off-site workers and the Hotel and Restaurant sector. These will need particular support and assistance if they are to succeed in implementing the programme.
Other sectors however - Retail and Wholesale, Health and Social Care, Transport, Storage and Communications, and Manufacturing - plus Medium and Large organisations, are likely to find the programme easier to implement.
For all however, this programme for quit smoking support in the workplace has the potential to change behaviour and improve staff motivation and, possibly, retention.
The primary role for research among employers was:
- To understand the level of appetite amongst different types of Employers to provide workplace support for the employees
- To understand key audiences to target and key decision-making dynamics
- To understand the most effective way of engaging Employers
The primary role for research among employees was:
- To understand employees’ attitudes to work place initiatives
- To understand the best way to engage employees
The new tobacco marketing strategy identified the stakeholder audience as one with a potentially significant role to play in triggering and supporting quit attempts amongst routine and manual smokers, by reaching out to them in environments that are inaccessible to commercial media. Within this broad audience – which also includes Healthcare Professionals and Community Stakeholders – Employers were identified as a key channel of communications as well as influence for Routine and Manual (R and M) smokers.
The aim of the employer programme is to stimulate and support a greater number of and more successful quit attempts amongst R and M smokers by encouraging employers to provide workplace support in the form of resource packs or different onsite support options.
The focus for year 1 is to understand how the Employer channel can be harnessed effectively by:
- Identifying Employer motivations and barriers to engagement
- Developing a communications strategy and creative approach to maximise Employer/Employee participation
Successful activity will then be rolled out into years 2 and 3.
Research will be used to help determine the optimum channel and message mix for different types of company types. Insights from the research will also be used to optimise creative strategy for the different audiences.
Qualitative research to understand the level of appetite amongst different types of Employers to provide workplace support for the employees and to understand employees’ attitudes to work place initiatives and the best way to engage employees.
Group discussions with Employees and depth interviews with Employers
Data collection methodology
Employees: 5 group discussions with Routine and Manual (R&M) smokers. All wanted to quit smoking and had already tried to do so. 5 key industry sectors were represented, Manufacturing, Transport / Storage / Communications, Retail and Wholesale, Hotel and Restaurant, Health and Social Care, with employees from small, medium and large companies within each group.
Employers: 15 depth interviews with employers in the five key industry sectors. These included small, medium and large organisations. Additionally, three Decision Making Mini Groups, each lasting 1 hour plus, were held with Employers. These mini-groups comprised interested / relevant parties e.g. HR, General Manager, Health and Safety Manager, CSR Manager, Service Manager, Operations Manager and Training Manager.