Politics Is Still Distracting the US Workforce

Politics Is Still Distracting the US Workforce

November’s presidential election was perhaps the most heated political contest the US has seen in years, and political conversations and arguments have been creeping into the workplace at an extraordinary rate since last year’s campaign season. Employers who thought perhaps their employees would stop talking politics and get back to work after the election and the inauguration had passed may have another think coming, as Jena McGregor notes at the Washington Post. She highlights a new survey from BetterWorks that “found employees reporting plenty of social media distractions, political discussions that have escalated into arguments, and even hours spent reading posts about politics while they’re at work”:

The recent online survey of of 500 full-time employed Americans finds that workers report spending an average of two hours per day reading political social media posts. They reported reading an average of 14 political social media posts during the workday, with 21 percent of respondents saying they read 20 or more a day. And 20 percent of the full-time employees who responded said they’d attended a march or rally since the election. …

The survey also found that nearly 50 percent of those surveyed said they have witnessed a political conversation turn into an argument at work, with 63 percent of millennials saying the same. Thirty percent said their colleagues spend more time talking about politics than they do about work. And almost 30 percent of workers say they’re less productive since the election.

Interestingly, however, about 70 percent said they felt more productive since November. Some, particularly Trump supporters, may just not be distracted. Many others may simply be glad to put the election behind them and be ready to move on. And still others may find that focusing on work provides a distraction of its own from the chaos of the news.

Last week, McGregor took a look at how the early days of the Trump administration were affecting the workplace and heard something similar from HR consultants, who told her they were getting a lot of calls from clients asking about how to manage the high level of distraction:

One human resources consultant compared the deluge of headlines and the constant access many workers have to social media, news alerts and confirmation hearing videos on their screens to the distractions that sporting events like March Madness can bring to working hours.

“People are riveted,” says Jeanne Meister, a consultant who works with human resources managers from Fortune 500 companies. “But unlike March Madness, this affects our lives. This affects our children’s lives.” She says some clients have observed “their employees are being engulfed in it. They thought it would stop with the election. But people are still obsessed and talking about it and getting upset about it.” …

Michael Letizia, a human resources consultant in Stockton, Calif., said that after Trump was inaugurated, “I’ve had way more calls from my clients about what to do about cellphones in the workplace. There’s so much happening so quickly, and these alerts and tweets are coming out four, five, even six times a day.”