Number of the day: Election Day workplace stress

68: Percentage of employees who say the election is a significant source of stress

The vast majority of U.S. adults are very stressed about the election, according to a recent survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association. That’s up from the 52% of survey respondents who said the election was a significant source of stress in 2016. Moreover, the anxiety is felt across party lines: 76% of Democrats, 67% of Republicans and 64% of independents report election worries.

Related: Employers step up to offer Election Day benefits

What it means for HR leaders

When employees are stressed, they are often distracted and much less productive at work. Historically, employees have been distracted on Election Day, and that stands to be an even more significant issue this year with a contentious election. According to data from Reflektive—released earlier this year—54% of 1,000 surveyed employees say their performance at work will be impacted if their candidate loses, and 29% say politics will make it difficult to work the day after the election.

Industry insiders point to the election as a source of strain on mental health. That’s on top of other significant mental health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Mental health issues will “far exceed the duration and impact of COVID itself,” Garen Staglin, chairman of One Mind at Work, said during a webinar discussing employees’ worsening mental health. “There’s no vaccine for anxiety. There’s no vaccine for depression.” In addition to COVID-19 and its associated effects, a weak job market, racial tensions and the upcoming election are adding to employees’ anxieties. “All of this is impacting our lives,” he said.

To mitigate stress and help employees through the election and beyond, company and HR leaders would be wise to focus on employees’ mental health and aim to create a safe, inclusive environment through active listening and practicing empathy for employee stress and the different ways they’re trying to cope with it. They should also ensure their employees know about the mental health resources they offer, industry experts say.

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