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Were you rabidly refreshing election results at work? You had company

Local employers say they understand why workers may have been distracted on Wednesday.

John King's "magic wall" on CNN may have kept a lot of people from getting work done Wednesday.
John King's "magic wall" on CNN may have kept a lot of people from getting work done Wednesday.

Activists have argued for years that Election Day should be a federal holiday. But this year, many people around Boston are probably wishing that the day after the election was also a day off.

Workers around the bleary-eyed region returned to work on Wednesday, just a few hours — in some cases — after having gone to bed settling for inconclusive results in the presidential contest.

Employees were struggling Wednesday to stop refreshing online electoral maps on company time, while employers acknowledged that many of their staff would be feeling anxious and unsettled in a state that voted overwhelmingly for Democrat Joe Biden.

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Zoe Licata, who works at a coffee shop in Harvard Square, said she went to sleep at 2 a.m., then got up in time to report to work at 8. It was a rough day.

“It’s kind of depressing. You come in, you’re tired, and are serving a bunch of equally tired, upset people who are very anxious about everything,” said Licata, an independent who voted for Biden. She acknowledged sneaking into the back room when the shop was empty to check the latest vote tallies.

Customers seemed equally distracted, she said. Some accidentally walked off without paying (then came back), and regulars asked for an extra shot of espresso to get them going.

In an unusual election during an unusual year, many people are still working from home because of COVID-19. And changes put in place to combat the pandemic resulted in a massive increase in voting by mail, delaying a definitive result in the contest between Biden and President Trump — who ratcheted up the anxiety with rhetoric that has included a premature declaration of victory.

Andrew Shatté, co-founder of meQuilibrium, a Boston-based technology company that focuses on workplace well-being, said the uncertainty of the election is “the last thing we needed.”

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Shatté said it is important that employers take that into consideration when evaluating the productivity of their workers over the next few days.

“We need to recognize that we are going to be distracted, unfocused, and we might even be emotional,” he said. “These things are going to get in the way of us being 100 percent productive right now...having a culture that says ‘we get that,’ is important.”

Some employers whose workers remain largely remote said on Wednesday that they had taken steps to keep employees connected to one another at a time of national and worldwide significance.

Akamai, the Cambridge Internet technology firm, held three company-wide virtual meetings during which chief executive Tom Leighton spoke to employees about the election and global public policy. One meeting was for employees in the US, another for people working in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and a third for those in the Asia Pacific region.

At HireMinds, a Boston recruiting firm, managers announced a program giving each employee $150 to make a charitable donation to a cause or organization of their choice. “We want to assist our employees in supporting causes they most care about while everyone navigates some uncertainty and stressors,” senior practice director Sean McLoughlin said in an e-mail.

Karen Kaplan, chief executive of the advertising firm Hill Holliday, sent a memo to employees urging them to avail themselves of mental health resources offered by the company.

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“It was/is an overwhelming day in an already overwhelming year, and self-care is more important than ever, so please support yourselves and each other however you need to,” Kaplan wrote.

Lola.com the Boston expense management software startup, gave employees time off to vote on Tuesday, as did several other area companies. On Wednesday, co-founder Paul English said the company was making space for people to discuss their feelings or concerns about the election, including in a chat room used for regular discussion of racial justice issues.

He said people appeared to be as productive as usual as he oversaw the remote work on one of Lola’s new products, but English also encouraged people to go out, take a walk, get some fresh air, and stop thinking about politics for a little while.

“Part of my responsibility, just being a human leader, is the things I can do to reduce anxiety,” English said. With voting concluded, he said, “There’s no sense in agonizing over it now.”

“It’s on everyone’s mind, but this is only going to be a day or two longer, most likely,” he added.

A trip away from the home work space wasn’t so calming for Ali Schmelzle, who works in marketing at a Boston publishing company. She went to her actual office to get some mail, and was taken by the disturbing sight of stores and buildings boarded up in Beacon Hill in anticipation of potential unrest around the election.

“It’s never felt like this before, and that’s sad and it’s scary, but it’s the world that we find ourselves in right now,” said Schmelzle, who also voted for Biden.

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Schmelzle’s manager gave her a call to talk about how she was feeling, which she appreciated. By Wednesday afternoon, she was just happy to have something to do other than thinking about the election.

“I’m one of those people who welcomes the distraction of work,” she said. “Having tasks that I know I can accomplish, and throwing myself into those, has been a wonderful thing.”

Jon Chesto of the Globe staff and Globe Correspondent Anissa Gardizy contributed to this article.


Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen. Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto. Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.