Surveys show that talking politics can lower productivity at work

Less than a week. That’s how long it is until the U.S. makes its pick for the next president. As the race nears the finish line, political discussions in the office can be a major distraction and are particularly hard to avoid.

New data from Accountemps, a Robert Half company, points to millennials as most likely to be affected.

A survey shows that 31 percent of workers between the ages of 18 and 34 said they have had heated political debates with their coworkers. This group is also most likely to be less productive as a result, with 25 percent saying their work has suffered.

A previous survey showed that 56 percent of all workers felt discussing politics in the office could get heated and offend others. However, more than half of millennials felt political banter with coworkers could help keep them informed.

Tyler Dion, branch manager of Robert Half Seattle, said he believes this topic is of great importance because of how much productivity can be lost.

To avoid getting distracted by such discussions going on around you in your office, Dion says you should try to stay focused on sticking to the plan you made for your day each day. Then you can make sure you accomplish your goals for that day and stay on track.

He also said you can dodge invitations to discuss politics by simply opting out.

“Personally, I am the least political person you will ever meet. And that’s what I tell people. So I just say it’s not my cup of tea and excuse myself from the conversation,” he said

He said it’s better to make light of both sides or refer to Saturday Night Live skits than to actual contentious issues that could offend. Additionally, he says he personally recommends not revealing how you choose to vote.

Today, he thinks debates are more likely to pop up around the office not only because of how polarized the two national candidates are, but also because of how we are getting our news.

“Think about how quickly we get our news now,” he said. “It used to be debate-based, nightly news-based, and all received at home. But now we are receiving breaking news all day, everywhere. News around the clock. So we’re more likely to develop and express new opinions or get upset based on new information while we are at work.”

His biggest piece of advice for workers everywhere?

“Opinions are made every day, every minute. You want to avoid people in your workplace making opinions about you based on your political beliefs and not your work productivity.”