In this rather unusual guest post, MediaCom’s associate creative director, the non-smoking Taylor Thornton (pictured below), says he envies the camaraderie he sees in his smoking colleagues puffing away out the front of GroupM building…
As North Sydney Council’s proposal to banish smoking from Sydney’s second largest CBD moves towards community consultation I thought it might be worth reflecting – is smoking healthy for your career?
We’ve known for decades that smoking is bad for a lot of things but could smoking open opportunities that non-smokers might miss? I’d genuinely like to know. I can barely bum puff or pretend to tolerate walking through a cloud of smoke, but I’ve noticed that these seven minutes or 420 second relationships cocooned in haze surpass the small talk many of us awkwardly navigate and fumble through as we get to know our colleagues.
What is it about sharing a cigarette that accelerates human bonding? Whether it’s outside an office building or a bar, people who smoke are at the very least willing to strike up a conversation with someone they mightn’t know. Today in many public environments you’ll mostly find people with their eyes glued to their phone screens. I’ve talked to a lot of smokers and what I keep hearing is that the conversations they have hurdle the banalities of everyday life and gets straight to the good stuff.
In a day and age when everyone defaults to the ‘busy’ trap (the office equivalent of how’s the weather) coffee catch-ups and drinks with colleagues and mentors are often postponed or rescheduled but what if much shorter exchanges could solve ideas and lead to new opportunities? Could these quick, informal chats lead to a new brief or getting an opportunity to work on a new business pitch? Or perhaps leave you with a stoic piece of advice that will stay with you long after you’ve inhaled your last drag and butted the ciggie (never on the sidewalk of course).
This isn’t about ghosting your senior leadership team outside the building and offering them cigarettes in a bid to bump yourself up a career ladder, that’ll get you inhaling an entirely different kind of smell but these casual, informal moments with colleagues are invaluable.
Despite this, some smokers still feel the stigma around the ‘smoko’. It’s never explicitly stated but it lingers in stolen glances and scented elevator rides. Smoking has always been a part of advertising, from the seminal posters and erotic slogans of the 60s to the packet a day fuelling stressed out creative departments in the 80s and 90s to the cheeky ciggie on a Friday arvo at the pub. As smoking declines I think we should look at the behaviours and rituals that could be beneficial to the workplace and consider…
- Getting away from your desk on the hour for seven minutes and taking a break from pushing pixels. Think and engage with your environment rather than a screen
- Getting outdoors into the fresh(ish) air and perhaps hitting the reset button. This will boost your next sessions productivity and lead to a much-needed break through
- Rather than crafting emails save time and cultivate deeper face to face connections with colleagues
As the industry ploughs ahead with Instant Message and tools like Slack we’ve never been more connected but I think there is value in having a good old fashioned chat with someone. I’m here to say that before smoking is banished in public there is a bit of merit to the characters loitering outside buildings, and after all this is time well spent. If you’re not a smoker, it’s time to take the non-smokers smoko and get outside your building, your inbox and talk to your colleagues about what truly matters. Wouldn’t that be a seven minutes worth spending?
NB: This isn’t intended to be pro-smoking or encourage its use but to simply relook at the way we as humans interact with one another.