This week, SNoW Co. (Nickname for Sarah Noll Wilson, Inc. for our new friends) had a two-day paid holiday. Why do you ask? For the election.
But Sarah, people don’t need two days to vote. Isn’t that excessive? This was a real perspective lobbed my way.
I don’t think so and here is why. Yes, I believe unequivocally that paid time off for voting should be law. Since it isn’t, I’m committed to ensuring my colleagues can take the time they need to participate. But elections don’t just require time for voting. They can consume significant mental and emotional energy while watching results and navigating the outcomes.
While this year’s election was especially emotionally charged and coming at a time when we were already energetically depleted, in all the elections that I can remember, the emotional toll is still high. Results aren’t announced until early morning or the following days. There is always a winner and a loser, and whether you are celebrating or grieving there is a collective release of tension that has been building for months. The reality is, productivity levels can be massively decreased the day after an election and even more so when the results are still being tabulated. Giving my colleagues (and myself) a day to process, to breath and recover supports our mental health and our ability to continue creating together.
As a leader I cannot control my team’s mental health and it could be argued that I am not obligated to make accommodations. But as a leader, what I do and the environment I create absolutely impacts and influences my colleagues. We can be supportive during a challenging time that balances the needs of the humans with the needs of the business.
I recognize that taking off two days for an election is not possible for every company or employee. We are fortunate to have this flexibility, but it is worth exploring other creative ways to ease the burden the day after an election. Maybe it’s flexible start times, having a catered lunch, giving an extra break or even acknowledging that productivity might be decreased and that is OK. These small allowances are worthwhile for your team’s mental health and will have a positive effect on engagement.
One of our jobs as leaders is to foresee challenges that a team may face and think creatively about what we can do to set our fellow humans up for success. Right now these are humans that are civically engaged with a contentious election. Humans that are impacted by schooling their children from home. Humans that had a natural disaster derail their lives. Humans that are doing everything they can to move through life in a pandemic.
Giving an extra day once every four years so that my colleagues can breathe may feel excessive to some, but for me, it feels empathetic. That’s the impact I choose to make.
And lastly– remember to breathe today.