Wednesdays are usually pretty nondescript: wake up, work-out, make coffee, go to work, spend eight hours in your open office on your yoga ball, snack on guacamole that the IT guy made, teach yoga on the patio, make a s’more in the fire pit, go home. (Okay, I admit, we have an awesome office culture.)
But Wednesday, November 9, 2016 was anything but ordinary at work. The entire election cycle had been emotional for people, but the aftermath of the presidential election had heightened emotions in a way that many hadn’t anticipated. While our employees are diverse and certainly don’t all espouse the same political beliefs, I don’t want to generalize — but I’ll say that you don’t often see this kind of emotion taken publicly to the office. I manage internal marketing and workplace culture at our company, and so this posed a big challenge for me, particularly because I was a vocal supporter of the candidate who lost. When something of massive importance has happened in one or two employees’ lives and they can’t help but carry that emotion with them to work, that’s one thing. It’s another thing entirely when it’s everyone.
But in our world of always-on news and a cloud of social media information that heightens the intensity and impact of world events like nothing else, this kind of collective emotion is something that comes around more often than every four years. From the relatively minute (an unexpected result of a sports championship) to the globally significant (a natural disaster), managing reactions of this nature has become a necessity for 21st-century companies. Here are a few ways that as a company we have helped to manage, rather than mask, these reactions:
We focus on the small things as much as we can. After last year’s devastating attacks on Paris, we bought breakfast on the company’s culture budget and charged per plate, with proceeds going to the French Red Cross. After the largest mass-shooting in American history at Pulse nightclub over the summer, we did the same thing but with donuts and coffee and donated the proceeds to the GoFundMe campaign set up by Equality Florida to benefit the victims’ families. We’ve collected school supplies for homeless children, helped set up an animal adoption fair, donated presents to families at the holidays. When we have too much food from a team lunch, I call a homeless shelter in the area, and they are always grateful to receive a meal for their residents. My personal favorite? The company will pay for your gym membership, provided that you meet a minimum number of visits per month. If you don’t make the minimum number of trips to the gym, I kick you off the roster, no warning — and the only way to get back on is to provide me proof of a $50 donation to charity. Our offices across the country were closed for Election Day to guarantee employees the time needed to wait in long poll lines and show that we respect their identities as citizens, not just employees. There are countless ways to give back, and your employees’ collective interests can help you decide where to put your efforts. In the busy world of tech, compassion and activism could easily take a backseat to the worlds we’re inventing, but connecting with our own world on a daily basis makes us appreciate the work more.
What will the next 208 Wednesdays bring? I’m sure I don’t know. But by fostering workplace cultures that break free from the dated belief of leaving emotion at the door and instead building a culture that focuses on community engagement at work as a lifestyle and a set of values, I’m sure our Wednesdays (and every other day) will continue to be great. Again. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)
Originally published at medium.com