As any sampling of memes on Facebook or Instagram will reveal, 2020 has been a wild year. In fact, we don’t even need memes to understand that!
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic and workplace upheavals have upended so much of our daily lives that employees have already been on edge for months, anxious about their health, their families, and their job security.
Election Impacts Mental Health
To cap it all off, fall 2020 added a polarizing presidential campaign with drawn-out results and legal challenges, leading to extended uncertainty. Hyped up by social media and traditional media sources, much of the rhetoric around the campaign painted a picture of dramatic and dire consequences should the “wrong” candidate win.
Employers and HR teams should be cognizant of the stresses this election has contributed to and consider some steps to help support employee mental health in the workplace:
Strive to maintain normalcy. Americans are remarkably resilient people, and it’s important to maintain a sense of continuity post-election. Just because one’s preferred candidate fell short doesn’t mean the world stopped turning.
Be transparent about what could change in terms of new policies and when these changes might occur. This doesn’t mean needless speculation based on “gut feelings.” It means being aware of potential changes to government policies that might impact the workplace. This could include anything from minimum wage laws to health insurance to COVID-19 restrictions, for example.
If employees have questions on specific items, give them what information you can. If it’s too soon to know what impact a new government or new policies might have, that can be delivered as good news by letting employees know nothing has happened that requires a change in policy at this point.
Remind staff about available resources. Many companies already have employee assistance programs (EAPs) in place to help staff struggling with potential mental health issues. When new stressful events emerge, like divisive elections, that can be a good time to remind staff that those resources are available and how to access them.
Keep politics out of the office. Unless your business is inherently political or there are key policy decisions impacting the company, there is usually no good reason to bring politics into the office.
2020 has been a strange and wild year, and many employees are dealing with considerable stress already. The divisive political elections held in November and the uncertainty around the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoffs, taking place January 5, 2021, have only added to that stress for millions of workers. Employers should be aware of the potential need for mental health support in response to these significant external stressors.