The divisive presidential election might be over, but the distraction hasn’t let up at work.

Employees are spending a substantial chunk of their work hours reading, chatting and even clashing with their colleagues about politics, according to a new survey. BetterWorks Systems Inc., which makes performance-management software, polled 500 full-time working adults from Jan. 31 through Feb. 2 and found that 87% are reading social-media posts about politics during the workday.

More than a fifth read 20 or more posts. That adds up to an average of two hours a day spent talking or reading about politics, with 22% spending three or more hours each day on such activities, the poll shows.

The survey period followed President Donald Trump’s first days in office, a tumultuous time during which he faced large protests; fought the press about the size of his inaugural crowds, and abruptly banned entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven countries, saying the measure was needed to keep out terrorists.

Almost a third of those surveyed said their co-workers spend more time talking about politics than work, and nearly half have seen a political conversation morph into an argument at the office since the November election.

The focus on politics seems to be leaving less time and attention for employees’ actual jobs. Twenty-nine percent of workers report being less productive since the election, and the share is greater among those who read 10 or more political social-media posts each workday.

While politics always seem to have a way of creeping into the office during a presidential campaign, last year’s charged election cycle brought heightened tensions to workplaces around the country. Human-resource professionals reported more hostility at their organizations, and managers struggled to keep things civil. After the election, bosses tried to bring workers on opposite sides of the spectrum together.

Kris Duggan, BetterWorks’ CEO, said he has noticed more talk about politics at the company’s Redwood City, Calif., headquarters since nationwide marches on Jan. 21.

When employees used to take a break to scroll Facebook or Twitter, they typically would relax with lighthearted distractions such as cute cat videos, he said. But when they pause for political commentary and coverage, “they’re not getting recharged.”

The shift, and the productivity drop he estimates it brings with it, concerns him. His solution: “I just think you have to distract them with work.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal