GROUPS of smokers huddled outside offices is a familiar sight across the county.

But despite the publicity surrounding National No Smoking Day this week, many struggle to quit.

With this in mind, an Abingdon-based clinical hypnotherapist believes she can help smokers and employers at the same time.

Lorraine Groves, who launched Health & Happiness Hypnotherapy in January on business site Milton Park, aims to take her group and one-to-one hypnotherapy sessions into the workplaces to help staff quit smoking.

Although the company stumps up for the cost, staff sign a contract which says if they relapse, they will pay back their bosses.

Ms Groves, who operates from Creations hair and beauty salon on the business park, explained: “When there is no financial buy-in on individual basis, motivation isn’t always there and to stop smoking, motivation has to be high.”

Workers who stop for a puff five or six times a day are away from their work for an extra hour.

And Government health statistics show smokers are more likely to take time off for illnesses, ranging from coughs and colds to major ailments such as heart disease and stroke.

Ms Groves added: “The benefits to the individuals are clear but benefits to the company are also significant - improving staff welfare and productivity.”

The other plus-point of running stop smoking hypnotherapy sessions at work is, she says, strength in numbers.

She pointed out: “In any workplace there are groups who go for a cigarette together.

“If they are all quitting at the same time, they encourage each other not to lapse and keep each other strong.”

She added: “As for companies, they understand that by paying someone like me to come in for a day, that will be repaid in terms of less days taken off in the future in connection with smoking-related illness.”

Ms Groves, a former business consultant who recently completed a psychology degree at Oxford Brookes University and retrained to become a qualified hypnotherapist also has a service to ease stress in the workplace.

Express hypnosis sessions of 20, 30 or 40 minutes allow workers to visit the salon in their lunch break, or on the way home.

She explained: “Stress, anxiety and lack of self-confidence can be an issue for people at all levels in the business and affect how they work in the office.”

She added: “It means they don’t put themselves forward for promotion, or get involved in projects, because they don’t have confidence.

“When that happens, not only do they miss out but employers lose the benefit of their talents, too.”