I used to think the smoking crowd at work had a huge advantage. I’d see them leave the building together and come back 10 minutes later with all kinds of plans and energy. Why? They took the time to chat with other people, compare ideas, crystallize thoughts. Meanwhile, the non-smokers remained glued to their desk, staring at a mind-numbing computer screen.
Smoking breaks have always held a special appeal for corporate ladder climbers. The savvy folks in the office know if the visiting executive is a smoker, you want to follow him or her outside as smoke breaks have a way of flattening the hierarchy. I don’t know if it’s the shared struggle to get a light despite the wind sprites flitting around at the base of office buildings or if it’s the shared stigma created by engaging in an activity that relegates one to “6 metres from any building entrance”. Whatever the cause, it’s just enough to create a space where junior wannabes can get some serious face time with managers up the chain.
Yesterday I decided to join the smokers to get a little extra networking and ideation. What happened instead is I became part of a group of businesswomen standing outside, heads down, staring at Blackberries and iPhones, thumbs flying. No conversation.
I’m beginning to think the smokers are losing their networking advantage.