How SMS can help your workforce become smoke-free

With regular events like National No Smoking Day and Stoptober being championed by the NHS, there are more opportunities than ever for people to get healthy and quit the habit. Employers are starting to get in on the act, with workplace stop smoking initiatives gaining ground.

So why would you start a stop smoking scheme at your business, and how can you make it a success?

Smoking cessation and your business

You might already be aware of this, but smoking is pretty bad for your health – and it has a knock-on effect to businesses. According to research commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health, smoking related illnesses cost UK businesses around £979million every year.

On top of this, estimates suggest that the cost to businesses caused by workers taking smoking breaks adds up to £5.8 billion a year. That’s almost seven billion pounds lost because employees can’t kick the habit.

On top of the financial benefits, healthier workforces are typically happier and more productive, so it’s in your best interests to help your employees quit.

Internal communications

Putting the smoking cessation benefits out your mind for a moment, and you’ll see that there are several other advantages to implementing a workforce scheme of this nature.

A well-run scheme relies on good internal communications, which in turn can increase the levels of engagement among your staff. Keeping your staff more engaged and providing them with support outside of their direct work responsibilities can have a very positive effect on morale, and a happy workforce is a more productive workforce!

One of the other knock-on effects is that your company is shown to care about their employees, creating a more positive image of your business and making it more desirable to potential job applicants.

How to implement a successful scheme

For your smoking cessation scheme to be successful, you’ll need to make sure all of your employees are aware of it, and give them plenty of opportunities to join up.

We’ve got some experience in this area, as we’ve helped a number of organisations, including the NHS, run successful smoking cessation initiatives through SMS.

A report by Vitiello Communications group suggests that around 70% of workers would welcome their business communicating with them by SMS, and the medium offers a number of benefits.

It’s easy to recruit people into an SMS scheme by using a keyword on a short code, such as QUITTER on 60777, as NHS Knowsley did in one of their stop smoking campaigns. Wherever you’re promoting the scheme, include the keyword to generate immediate action and automatically gather the mobile numbers in a list for follow-up communications. You could set up an automatic response with a leaflet or stop smoking guide attached to it to give anyone texting in a bit of added motivation.

Regular communication and encouragement is highly beneficial when quitting smoking, and text messages are an ideal way to deliver this. NHS Knowsley’s scheme helped 366 people to stop smoking thanks to their regular SMS updates, which cut through the clutter of a busy email inbox. Even if your workforce don’t have their phones with them on their desks, they’re never going to be far away from them!

You can schedule your messages in advance so that your entire campaign is planned out for you. One idea is to let the group know what they’ve achieved by stopping for a certain amount of time. For example, after two days, let them know that their damaged nerve endings have started to regrow and that their sense of smell and taste are beginning to return to normal. Agitation and anxiety can be big problems for quitters in the first few days, so a bit of reassurance that it will have passed by day 14 could help to settle the nerves!

Of course, let’s not forget that weekends and evenings can be big triggers too – luckily you can schedule your messages to go outside of office hours (and up to a year in advance) to provide support and reassurance whenever it’s needed.

If you’d like to start an SMS-based stop-smoking scheme for your business, it’s easy to begin – just open a free account. There’s plenty of literature and advice available online on the NHS Smokefree website to help you write your messages, and our friendly customer service team are on hand to help you out with your planning. With a little time and effort, you’ll be on your way to helping your workforce become smoke free!