Every election season spotlights America's voter turnout woes. While some Americans choose not to fulfill their civic duty, many simply can't. And that's where structured flexibility can prove especially beneficial.
Even in the contentious 2016 presidential election, only 139 million Americans turned out to vote, a proportion of only 60.2 percent of eligible voters. That's only slightly better than the average presidential election voter turnout, which stands at 59.7 percent of eligible voters. And the record high—nearly 64 percent in 2012, per CNN—isn't even that high. In terms of voter turnout rates, the United States currently trails 25 of 32 reporting nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The reasons for such underwhelming turnout are varied—political apathy is one, of course, and voter suppression also ranks high. But one of the biggest obstacles is the fact that many voters just can't make it to their polling places in time. Election Day always falls on a Tuesday, which is a regular workday for most Americans, and not everyone can get time off to vote. This problem is exacerbated in lower income neighborhoods where a relative lack of polling places and voting machines can result in longer lines.
When companies do give employees access to flexibility on Election Day, it’s often granted on a case-by-case basis and rarely communicated throughout the organization. Another barrier that prevents some folks from heading to the polls is stigma—specifically, the fear of being penalized for coming in late or leaving early. To combat these problems, some companies have decided to close their doors completely on Election Day. And while this policy certainly gives employees more time to vote, it can be costly for many companies to close up shop for an entire day. A better solution? An Election Day flexibility policy that is documented and broadly communicated to employees in advance.
The type of flexibility that will meet the needs of most employees and businesses on voting day is MicroAgility. With MicroAgility, workers can hit the pause button on their work day to attend to non-work activities—like voting, for example—while keeping supervisors apprised of their plans. Additionally, Werk's TimeShift™ flex type could also apply here: TimeShift lets employees reorder their work schedule. And if employees are not working the usual 9-to-5 workday, they might be able to visit polling places during off-peak times. And that’s not just beneficial to employees. Shorter lines means less time wasted—and more work completed.
Do your employees have access to flexibility on Election Day? If so, are they aware of it and has it been communicated broadly? Learn more about how you can assess your employees' need for and perceived access to flexibility here.