'Make space': How 4 DC company leaders are addressing election stress at work - Technical.ly DC

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‘Make space’: How 4 DC company leaders are addressing election stress at work

Executives at VEDA Data Solutions, GiveCampus, Goodfynd and Savi Solutions share how they have been handling this election season in the workplace and creating safe spaces for employees.

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(Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tom Arthur, user under Creative Commons license)

Election Day was Tuesday, Nov. 3, but as of Friday afternoon, it seems like we’re on a loop of that same day as we continue to watch election results roll in.

This unpredictable limbo time has brought on extra stress to a rough year. Company leaders have already had to reinvent how they address hard topics in the workplace like the coronavirus pandemic, systemic racism and social injustice, because these are topics we can no longer be silent about for the sake of a neutral professional environment. With this election cycle being no different, company leaders are finding new ways to be transparent with employees.

To see how local tech companies have handled this election week, Technical.ly reached out to a bunch of leaders to ask these two questions:

  • How are you addressing the election in the workplace?
  • What are you doing to cultivate a safe space for employees during this stressful time?

Here’s what they had to say:

VEDA Data Solutions

“We always give Election Day (or time to early vote) off as a holiday,” CEO Meghan Gaffney Buck said in an email. “Employees can also take time off to work the polls as a volunteer.”

Venture-funded VEDA runs a platform that uses AI and machine learning to increase accuracy of healthcare directories. During the pandemic, Gaffney Buck said employees at VEDA have been given a monthly mental health day they can use as bonus PTO for whatever they need to do to make sure they are taking care of themselves.

“Every supervisor has the ability to grant extra leave to employees that may need it,” she said. “Our employees are dealing with a lot. They are managing life during a pandemic, many are educating kids or caring for family members, all while finding ways to cope with the political struggles for justice in our communities. We all need to make space to care for ourselves and one another.”

Hear more from Gaffney Buck in this Technical.ly DC Diaries episode on how she’s been leading her company from home this year.

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Goodfynd

The Goodfynd team. (Courtesy photo)

“I told my team if they needed the day then take it! Personally, I had to step away from the workplace on Wednesday so I could just be,” Goodfynd COO Sofie Abdul said. “This election is heavy, for everyone, and instead of ignoring it I encouraged everyone to just embrace and take care of themselves.”

Goodfynd is a Black-owned business that aims to make locally made food more accessible by connecting users to food trucks in their area, while enabling small and growing food businesses to better connect with their communities. Abdul said she’s been doing nothing different than before to cultivate a safe space for employees during this unprecedented time since she’s always been willing to provide the support.

“I make space for people to be who they are and to feel what the need to feel,” she said. “In a time like this, that’s even more important.”

Also, for comedic relief, Abdul has been looking to social media to lighten her mood.

“It’s the memes for me! The internet remains undefeated and the memes have given me much needed laughs, here are some of my favs [below].”

Savi Solutions

Before the election, this three-year-old fintech startup joined the Civic Alliance, a group of businesses working together to make sure everyone can participate in democracy. Savi also provided voting resources for free to all of its users and staff members.

“Our team of staff all had the day away from the office on Election Day to take time to vote, be engaged in the community, provide rides to the poll, and volunteer to power the polls and make calls,” said Ian Coon, a communications associate at Savi. “All of this work is what helps our democracy work better for everyone. Since Election Day, we have leaned into our company values and continue to hold space for each other to have 1:1 supportive conversations.”

Savi developed a platform that uses a proprietary tech to identify better student loan repayment and forgiveness options for borrowers. The company launched a Student Loan Voter Campaign ahead of the election last week, which offers struggling borrowers free assistance to navigate their debt or payments, including access to a free online student loan help tool, a student loan hotline and information on how to vote and make their voices heard.

GiveCampus

A group of GiveCampus employees. (Courtesy photo)

Kestrel Linder, GiveCampus cofounder and CEO, said the D.C.-based company that curates an educational fundraising platform has “openly acknowledged that this is a stressful time filled with a wide range of emotions.”

“At a regularly-scheduled All Hands meeting this week, we reminded members of our team that one thing they can control is how they show up for one another,” he said. “One of our company’s core values is to ‘Lift up those around you.’ In line with this, we’ve encouraged people to take time to check in on their teammates, to bring positivity and optimism to their work, and to focus on the important impact that work has in the world, even if they may be a little pessimistic or anxious about what’s going on outside of work. We’ve also taken steps to empower people to prioritize their self-care, including offering everyone extra paid time off this quarter.”

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