Worker Productivity Suffers When Politics Take Center Stage

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Worker Productivity Suffers When Politics Take Center Stage


As almost everyone has found out, political tension in much of the Western world has led to some pretty remarkable situations to unfold over the past year. From the controversial Brexit vote, to the election of Donald Trump as the United States’ 45th President, many people have been sucked into political turmoil inside their workplaces; and, it’s costing employers billions.

It’s inevitable that, at some point, you will have two employees that disagree about something. In fact, there have been studies that suggest a little animosity between co-workers improves competition and thus job performance. If this strategy worked in perpetuity, however, every manager would pit their workers against one another. There can only be so much acrimony before it all becomes a distraction. Due to the contentious U.S. Presidential election, that’s exactly what businesses are experiencing now.

The American Psychological Association has conducted a survey that showed that leading up to the election, a quarter of U.S. employees had been negatively affected by political talk; with younger workers especially susceptible to experiencing bouts of diminished productivity as a result. With the election and inauguration in the rearview mirror, many business owners and managers had to be thankful that the political divisiveness would smooth itself over, and they could get back to business as usual. Simply put, that hasn’t happened yet.

Traditionally the event that presents the biggest distraction to employee attention is NCAA men’s basketball tournament. A report by outplacement firm Challenger, Gary & Christmas estimated that more than 50 million American workers participate in office NCAA pools. That, and the near ubiquitous availability of the games, have resulted in over a billion dollars a day in lost productivity. The Brexit and Trump issues are far surpassing these figures. In fact, some administrators are scrambling to figure out ways to limit employee smartphone usage while they’re at work, as they see productivity drop every time employees get a new notification.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development makes a different argument about overall productivity altogether. They’ve found that while mean productivity may drop or stay relatively static during election seasons or events like the NCAA tournament, it’s the result of some of the world’s most successful companies moving faster and producing more than their competitors. So while there is little question that the political turmoil has affected most businesses, citing these actual losses in productivity in terms of monetary losses is relatively irresponsible.

There is seemingly always some sort of study that is telling business owners how much money they’re losing due to lapses in productivity. One issue with these studies is that they presuppose that maximum productivity is the aim of every worker. While productivity can be considered essential to an employee’s self-improvement by employers and people that stand to gain most of it, the decision to actually be more productive doesn’t lie with the employer. Unfortunately for a business, productivity is an individual consideration. This is why you’ve seen huge capital investments made in automation over the past decade. If a worker is diligent with their time much of the time, who’s to say that a day or two of being distracted actually removes the value from the organization?

No matter what your take on this issue is, it’s not difficult to imagine political turmoil–in the age of social media–costing your organization in some way. If you have seen a lapse in productivity as a result of political strife in your workplace, Resolve I.T. has several technology solutions that can help to eliminate distractions and keep your workers as focused as they can be. A content filtering solution could work wonders to keep workers from accessing Facebook or other social media, while a mobile device management solution and comprehensive Bring Your Own Device strategy can keep notifications, and thus arguments, to a minimum. Call us at (978) 993-8038 to learn more about how we can help you keep distractions to a minimum, and productivity high.

What do you think? Are employees more distracted with constant barrage of social media, news, or joining in debates with other staff? As an employer, do you want to quell it completely or do you think it solidifies your company culture? Let us know in the comments.