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October Guest Blog: Time to Vote

Racepoint Guest Blog

Written by Bob Osmond, President - Racepoint

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a devastating toll, as systemic racial and social injustices are exposed, as climate fires rage in the west, and hurricanes ravage the southeast, it’s become nearly impossible to separate work life from home life. In the midst of a heated U.S. election campaign, companies will have to navigate politics at work as well. Carol Hanisch coined the phrase “the personal is political,” and there is still discomfort about bringing politics to the office. In the face of all this change and shifting employee expectations, however, companies will be forced to recognize the difference between partisanship and citizenship.

Shifting Norms in Work-Life Integration

The personal and professional realms have merged and organizational norms have shifted—and rapidly.

Employees find themselves in a situation where they have to manage working from home and, in many cases, juggling work with childcare and home schooling. Employers have had to respond to the needs of their workers in ways that previously felt beyond their reach.

Companies have sped up their adoption of flexible work policies—mostly out of necessity. Today, the pendulum has swung to the “casualization” of work, where dress codes mean little and every day is bring-your-kid-and-or-pet-to-work day. The membrane between home life and work life has been eliminated. Long paid lip service, the prioritization of employee wellbeing is now a reality.  Clearly stated: in response to these external events, the myth of work-life balance has been busted. We have entered the realm of work-life integration.

Work-Life Integration: Is Politics the Last Firewall?

New expectations require that we shift the employee/employer relationship to ensure that all aspects of our team’s lives can be tended to without impediment. Politics is an area that remains potentially sticky for organizations. In a February, 2020 Harris/Glassdoor survey of 1,200 employed adults (before the widespread shut down and stay-at-home orders), 60% of employees stated a preference that partisan politics be kept out of the workplace. 

Elections have far-reaching consequences in every aspect of our lives. Consequential or not, voter turnout in the United States remains relatively low (approximately 56%), compared to other OECD countries. By contrast, Belgium (one of many countries with compulsory voting laws), boasts voting rates between 83% - 95%. Many proponents of enabling workers to exercise their franchise point to the value of making Election Day a national federal holiday.

While there are arguments for and against a federally-mandated holiday, many businesses have taken the initiative to foster participation as a way to support their employees and to express their values or purpose as a brand, something widely viewed as important to Millennial and Gen Z talent.

The new generation of workers are proponents of “activist government,” and, according to a recent survey by USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, these workers expect the same from brands. Where there is a lack of government leadership they expect businesses to fill the void. In that same politically tentative Harris Poll, more than half (54%) said that companies should encourage their employees to vote or be politically active outside of work.

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Enabling Employees to Vote is Table Stakes

We’ve reached a point where fostering participation in the democratic process should be table stakes. Well over 1,000 US companies (including my own), have pledged to give their employees time to vote this year.

Companies need to find every competitive advantage as they seek to attract a new generation of talent who have high expectations of their employers. Putting it plainly, providing time to vote is a way to avoid the dreaded say-do disconnect, something businesses are already actively addressing on multiple fronts. For example, companies:

  • Say they support employee health and wellbeing, so they provide healthcare;
  • Say they look at personal health holistically, so they establish wellness days to replace sick days;
  • Say they support curiosity and continuous learning, so they give people tuition support and allocate time to learn;
  • Say they support community, so o they donate money and pro bono time to chosen causes, giving people time to volunteer; and
  • Say they support equality, so they commit to unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion training—they improve their hiring pipeline and diversity their supply chains.

If we say we support democracy and democratic principles, then we must give employees paid time off in order to exercise their basic rights as citizens. In 2020, there’s no room for taboos about politics at work. Promoting participation is not political. 

Additional Curated Reading and Resources

 


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