How Is Trump Affecting Your Studio Culture?

By Meg Miller

If there’s one broad take away from the plethora of workplace studies in recent years, it’s that stress is a significant hindrance to productivity. We get more done when we’re working with a clear head, free of tension and stressful environmental factors. It’s obvious in theory, but more difficult in practice.

That goes nearly double, it seems, when a real estate tycoon with a penchant for divisive rhetoric is running the country. The political gulf that is dividing the country is playing out on the local level in workplaces throughout the United States, according to a survey released yesterday by the American Psychological Association. It found that 26% of employed adults said they felt tense or stressed out as a result of political discussions at work, an increase from 17% that felt stressed during the election cycle. That workplace hostility does not bode well for employee productivity.

The results, which you can read in full here, analyze the outcome of two separate surveys of about 1,000 people, one conducted online in August of 2016, and the other conducted after the election, in February and March of 2017. Over half of the post-election survey respondents said they have discussed politics at work since the election. Nearly one-third said they had witnessed coworkers arguing about politics, while 15% said they’ve gotten into an argument themselves. Employees reported feeling that because of these discussions and arguments, their relationships with coworkers felt strained, or isolated, that teams have suffered, and job performance declined. Many felt more cynical during the work day.

Clearly, political tension varies per workplace. But even without coworkers butting heads, today’s political climate is tumultuous, what with the looming government shutdown and the constant threat of policies, like the travel ban and border wall, that are seemingly designed just to stoke nativism and fear. As a separate survey released by the American Psychological Association in February found, people are just more stressed in general thanks to the new administration. These survey results are broad looks at stress levels, the causes and the consequences of which play out differently in different parts of the country and in different industries.

We’re curious about how they are affecting the design industry in particular. Right after the election, Co.Design spoke to designers who seemed determined to turn their disillusionment into action, and since then we’ve heard from far more who are still thinking about politics, with regards to their work, in a new way.

If you’re a designer or work in the design industry in some capacity, we want to hear how the new administration has impacted your workplace. Have the election results changed the way you work or the work you do? Do you discuss politics at work more than you did before this election? And if so, does it cause tension? Do you feel that political discussion causes stress and therefore hinders productivity?

Please get in touch with us by emailing CoDTips@fastcompany.com. The hope is that we’ll publish these comments when we have enough of them, so let us know if you would like to be kept anonymous.

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