Psst! Psst! Yeah, you. Look around. Listen. What do you hear? Does your workplace look and sound like it usually does? I bet it doesn’t. Odds are that more people than usual are paying attention to news portals, be it television, radio, social media, or other digital news outlets. I’ll venture too that there is more politics and civics inspired banter between co-workers than one usually finds 11 weeks post-election. The bad news is that while this is going on, other things aren’t, like work. Your productivity is getting hammered, and it’s only a matter of time before customers and shareholders notice. Here’s a prediction – It’s not going to end anytime soon.
So, Mr. or Ms. Manager, your workplace productivity is getting dinged as your staff spends considerable time every day wondering aloud about their new government, and perhaps worrying privately about their healthcare, their job, and what it means to be an American these days. For that matter, this isn’t a we vs. them thing. You’re wondering and worrying the same things. So, what do you do?
First, and foremost, you’ve got to get yourself squared away. To the extent that you are rattled or unfocused, those behaviors will be mirrored and magnified in the workplace by virtue of your position. Curb your television time, get a little more exercise and rest, and be very intentional about your uses of time and mindspace. As importantly, strap that smile on when you come to work. Really, it’s important. That will do you and the people around you a world of good.
Just as you would (or should) whenever there is some serious stuff going down at work, stay a little closer to your team. Chat them up a bit more and listen a lot more, if only to see how they are doing, and let ‘em know that you care. I’m not hyperventilating here. I’ve seen people rattled over the last couple months whom I never would have expected to. People who are rattled, scared, or distracted aren’t likely to be very focused on their work, resulting in mistakes, accidents, and yes, reduced productivity.
To the extent that real or currently proposed public policy changes could impact your business or workforce, do your best to ensure that your team is kept up to date with responsible, non-alt-factual information. Not happy talk, the straight skinny. If it would help to have someone more senior in the organization address the team to inform or reassure them, make the ask. While others are creating a din about American jobs, focus your attention on the welfare and betterment of American workers, your own. It is in times of tumult that workplace reputations get earned, for better or worse.
Twenty years ago you might have turned off the available media and announced / enforced a strict “work time is for work” ethos. As former NBA star, Dikembe Mutombo intoned, “Not Today!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtXtOuxBuvQ
But here are five things you can do:
Keep people busy. Take on an extra project (a meaningful one) to make sure that everyone is fully tasked and engaged. Fill every minute of slack time with meaningful employee development initiatives.
Make it a point to regularly call attention to unit productivity. You should be doing this anyhow. If you don’t customarily use any productivity-related incentives, this would be a good time to start. Just be very careful what you incentivize, because that is what will get done.
This might also be a good time to take on an activity where your team is giving something back to the community. Rubbing elbows with people or a cause that involves those who truly have something to worry about does as much, if not more for the giver than the beneficiary. Build a house with Habitat for Humanity, take the lead on a fundraise for an organ transplant patient, or other such endeavor. Being involved with causes bigger than yourself does wonders for one’s perspective.
Keep an ear on the banter in the workplace. If it’s going on a little too long, loud, or gets mean spirited, you’ll need to step in and change the volume and channel. While you’re at it, take steps to ensure that customer-facing staff are on their best behavior.
Lastly, find a way to have some fun. Have a SuperBowl party. People are going to have the party anyhow, why not be an unofficial limited sponsor?book richard or bill to speak for your meeting