What is the Impact of Political Instability on your Workforce?
Heightened political unrest has led to a wave of challenges for organisations from the political instability in Niger, Sudan conflicts, Turkey elections, climate-change protests in Europe as well as the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict. There have been over 60% more elections globally in 2023 compared with 2022, heightening the likelihood of political violence. In the month of November 2023, we issued the highest number of alerts related to political violence compared with all other months in the past two years.
Often overlooked, however, are the impacts of fears and concerns these events have on a wider employee population. In 2022, the American Psychological Association found that 66% of adults experiencing severe stress levels said it was due to the current political climate1. This aligns with mental illness being in the top ten reasons that clients call our 26 Assistance Centres.
More broadly, anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the working population and its origins are most often associated with chronic stress.
As an organisation with employees located across various risk locations, it is imperative to understand the nuanced nature of stress and anxiety on your entire workforce. Whether from internal hazards or external events, the physical and emotional impact can be severe. As part of your Duty of Care responsibilities, it is imperative to understand the sources, impact, and strategies in order to proactively develop programmes to address them.
What is Political Anxiety?
Political anxiety is directly caused by political events that can affect an individuals' mental wellbeing. These events encompass a wide range, from elections and policy changes to international conflicts and domestic crises. Such events can trigger uncertainty, fear, and emotional distress among employees. The effects on individuals vary but can impact overall health, performance and mental wellbeing.
Recognising the Sources of Political Anxiety
To effectively address political anxiety for your employees, it is important to identify the primary sources that contribute to this issue:
- Infodemic and the Media: The sheer quantity of information across social media and news syndicates expose employees to a flurry of political information. While staying informed is essential, excessive exposure to polarising content can lead to heightened anxiety levels.
- Economic Concerns: Economic policies and global events can directly impact job security and financial stability. Uncertainty surrounding these issues can contribute to employee anxiety.
- Policy Changes: Rapid shifts in government policies and regulations can have significant implications for businesses and employees. These changes can trigger fear and uncertainty about job security and career prospects.
- International Crises: Events such as international conflicts and acts of terrorism can create a sense of vulnerability among employees, especially those who have direct ties to or are from regions affected by a crisis.
The Impact of Political Anxiety on the Workplace
Political anxiety can manifest in various ways within the workplace, affecting both individual employees and the organisation as a whole:
- Reduced Productivity: Employees experiencing heightened anxiety may struggle to concentrate on their tasks, leading to decreased productivity and work quality.
- Increased Absenteeism: Some employees may have fears of travelling to and from the workplace, avoid business travel and therefore lead to absenteeism.
- Mental Health Issues: Prolonged political anxiety can contribute to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders, necessitating medical attention and time off work.
Strategies for Addressing Political Anxiety
Proactively supporting the mental health and wellbeing of your employees is reliant on organisations imbedding strategies into workplace culture and policies. Here are some important support measures to consider:
- Assess the Level of Impact: Before developing organisational strategies to address geo-political stress, it is important to carry out an assessment of the psycho-social hazards in the workplace as well as external exposures. This process, often part of Workplace Health and Safety legislation, is a critical pillar to meeting your Duty of Care responsibilities.
- Offer End-to-End Support: After assessing the specific hazards to your workforce, you can develop tailored support services that address the specific challenges from employee assistance programs (EAPs) that provide counselling and emotional support to personalised hotlines for employees to call in the event of an incident.
- Access to Reliable and Validated Information: To negate the impact of misinformation, it is critical to provide reliable and vetted sources of information that address political and security-related incidents. Leading up to known events such as elections or rising tensions, providing real-time updates to your people will help to ensure a more positive outcome. By educating and informing employees, you equip them with accurate information and resources to support them during times of crises.
- Education and Training: Conduct workshops and training sessions to help employees understand the impact of political anxiety and how to cope with it effectively. Training can also address the importance of respectful political discussions in the workplace. Provide access to wellness programs and resources.
- Establish Clear Communication Channels: Keep employees informed about organisational changes that may result from political events or crises. Transparency can help alleviate uncertainty.
Creating a Company Culture Inclusive of Mental Health
As the volatility of the socio-political environment continues to change, organisations must consider the residual mental health impact it has on their people. Leaders must be able to recognise and address political anxiety impacts within their workforce and proactively provide information and support the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. Providing mental health resilience support to your employee population is essential for the success and sustainability of any organisation.