ROCHESTER, MINN—Did you hear about the Mayo Clinic’s move to develop a Global

Smoke-Free Worksite Challenge. The goal is to expand the number of employees in every industry that work in a smoke-free environment. It crosses private sector companies, nongovernmental organizations and governments. Partners are committed to making their worksites 100 percent smoke-free.

“Secondhand smoke affects everyone. This challenge protects workers from secondhand smoke who don’t have any choice,” says Richard Hurt, M.D., chairman of Global Bridges and founding director of Mayo’s Nicotine Dependence Center.

“Smokers in a smoke-free environment are more likely to reduce their smoking and increase the chances of them quitting smoking, so it’s healthy for everyone. Right now, over 30 countries across the world have smoke-free workplace laws, which is pretty amazing.”

With more countries implementing smoke-free workplace laws, smokers are probably taking more smoke breaks outside the office. That, of course, can hinder productivity. Barring smokers giving up the habit, companies may be better off letting smokers telecommute from a virtual office at least part of the time—so they can smoke all they want.

Virtual office technologies set the stage for telecommuting, which gives employees the freedom to workshift, i.e. work non-traditional work hours. But it would also give telecommuting employees to smoke freely in their virtual offices. Just like people can and do work in their pajamas from a virtual office, as studies show, so too can they smoke a cigarette without stopping the work flow.

What’s more, with virtual office space, smokers aren’t subjecting others in the workplace to the dangerous second hand smoke Hurt mentioned. Although smoking is hardly a key motivator for adopting alternative workplace strategies, it is one more reason to bolster the argument, especially considering there are about 1.2 billion smokers in the world and some studies show smoking costs America alone $97 billion productivity each year.