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By: Ber Leary on October 28th, 2020

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How Employers Can Help Out in this Explosive Election

Total Rewards | Risk Management

There are two things that most employers wish they could forget about right now: Covid-19; and the US Presidential election.  

Unfortunately, you can't keep either of these things out of the office for long. Around a quarter of employees say that they discuss politics at work for over 15 minutes each day. And these conversations are contentious. It's been a bruising campaign that has weighed heavily on supporters of both parties. Even our confidence in the process is shaken, with 55% of people saying that they won't trust the final outcome. 

Instead of ignoring the election, this is a chance to engage with staff and build a reputation as a socially responsible employer. You can do this by taking a positive, non-partisan approach to getting out the vote and supporting the process. 

What you can do before the election 

We're getting close to the election finish line, and many people have already availed of early voting or cast their mail-in ballots. Here are a few ways you can get involved before the official polling day.  

  • Voter registration: Companies like Gap often host voter registration drives within their offices to help their people get registered. Voter registration is closed in most states, but you can check your local deadlines on vote.org. Even if you missed 2020, now is the time to start thinking about the 2022 mid-terms.  
  • Free stamps for postal ballots: There's some confusion about where to post ballots and whether they require a stamp. You can save employees some time by setting up a dropbox in the office and covering postage costs. Make sure everyone knows the deadline for submitting postal ballots.  
  • Paid time off for poll workers: The in-person voting process relies on thousands of volunteers, all of whom require training before the big day. Firms such as Facebook, Target, and Old Navy are giving employees paid time off to work on the polls. Facebook is going a step further and giving free advertising to local governments to help them recruit extra polling staff.  
  • Help employees make a voting plan49% of people expect that they're going to have a hard time casting their vote in this election. You can help by offering advice on polling locations, ID requirements, ballot layouts, and how to find reliable information about candidates and issues. Your state and local authorities may provide useful voter information packs that will help, or you can look at resources like Vote411 or TurboVote. 

What you can do on election day 

Tuesday, November 3rd is the big day. Covid-19 and social distancing rules mean that in-person voting might be especially stressful this year, and turnout could go above 50%. Here are some ways to help your team have a safe and stress-free voting experience.  

  • Give the day off: The Time To Vote initiative has inspired over 1300 companies to make polling day a paid holiday. Companies like PatagoniaSalesforce, and Twitter are giving a full day of paid leave to cast their vote this year. 
  • Give some time off: Many employers are offering paid hours off for polling. Apple is giving employees four hours off, while Walmart is giving its associates three paid hours. With this approach, you need to be mindful of the fact there may be delays at the polls due to Covid-19 restrictions, as we saw in some primaries. 
  • Assist with childcareChildcare can have a major impact on voting, especially if in-person voting means waiting in line for hours. Some organizations, such as the Armed Services YMCA, are working together to provide free cover for parents on polling day. You can help too, either by creating a creche space in the office or assisting employees in figuring out a shared childcare roster.  
  • Free rides to polling stations: Starbucks is planning to literally get the vote out by offering free Lyfts to employees. You can provide something similar, or you can help work out a carpool arrangement among your team to assist anyone that doesn't have transport. You can also encourage your team to offer rides to the broader community. A company-sponsored Ride to the Polls initiative is an excellent opportunity for team-building and civic engagement.  

What to do after election day 

On November 4th, we'll wake up to one of three scenarios: a red victory; a blue victory; or a stalemate that will drag on for weeks, possibly even into next year.  

Whatever the result, there's going to be a lot of debate, and possibly some anger. Here's what you can do to help keep your team moving forward.  

  • Extend mental health resources68% of Americans say that this election is a significant stressorThat stress is likely to get worse if their preferred candidate loses or if the count descends into a drawn-out debacle. Now is the perfect time to review your Employee Access Program (EAP) and ask if you're doing enough to support employee mental health.  
  • Host open conversations: While it's tempting to ban political discussions in the workplace, food company General Mills has been going in the opposite direction. Their Courageous Conversations series has brought together hundreds of colleagues and given them a respectful, orderly space to discuss challenging issues. Attendees have enjoyed productive debates about #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, immigration, and mental health. 
  • Clarify your internal processes: Hopefully, everyone in your company will remain professional, even when they disagree with their colleagues' views. However, you should still prepare for difficult situations, which means speaking to local leaders about techniques for de-escalating interpersonal conflicts. You should also have clear rules about acceptable conduct in the workplace, so everyone knows when honest debate crosses the line into harassment or bullying. 

If your team is preoccupied with the issues arising from this election, that's a good thing. It shows that you've hired smart, passionate, engaged people who care about their community. And that means there's a chance for you to show that your leadership is involved, responsible, and guided by deeply-held values.