“Mental health can be thought of as the balance between the pressures that our minds and bodies are under, and the resources that we have to deal with them", says Kimberley Wilson, Psychologist and Author of 'How to Build a Healthy Brain'. With this in mind, let's shift gears together for a moment here and think about it. Which resources are available to you? Which can you provide to others? And what do "resources" in this case even mean? Find out in this all-new Driver's health blog.
Mental health is a tricky topic. Too often it is overshadowed by other issues or even downplayed for fear of not being taken seriously. In our Driver's health blog #1 road safety and #2 back issues we have talked about these very important and pressing issues for many drivers. But it goes without saying that a healthy body is only worth so much if the mind is in balance. In cooperation with our dear colleagues from Alphabet GB we therefore dedicate today's article to this all-important topic and provide you with some practical advice in the form of our free MOT (Ministry of Transportation) Guide.
Figures to be taken seriously
First, let's have a look at some numbers collected by Alphabet GB to take inventory. Like most of the world, Great Britain has been hit hard by the pandemic. Despite the social and economic impact, it's also the mental health of the people that has been severely affected. Alphabet surveys have shown that more than one third of fleet drivers experienced a rise in stress levels due to the situation. Nearly 1 in 3 drivers have been working longer hours throughout the pandemic, with 25% covering other job roles and experiencing increased workloads. Darker days and harsher weather conditions of winter have only added to the strains placed on fleet drivers.
A guiding light
While these numbers are specific to UK drivers they can be found in similar constellations for other countries, as well. Having faced ongoing changes and restrictions for more than a year, it’s no surprise the pandemic has added to mental health concerns around the globe and throughout all industries. For the fleet industry in particular, the topic of duty of care remains an important focus, but often with an emphasis on vehicle maintenance.
Alphabet, working with mental health expert Kimberley Wilson, has therefore created the Driver MOT guide for fleet managers to shine a light on this important part of the bigger picture. “As we spend a significant proportion of our days engaged in our work, the working conditions and the environments created by employers, have profound effects on wellbeing and psychological resilience," Wilson explains. The compact but insightful guide helps companies to prioritise and check drivers’ wellbeing and advance conversations around mental health in the fleet industry.
Alphabet’s Driver MOT guide
The following guide provides a checklist to help equip and empower fleet managers to engage in the topic of mental health with their drivers, as our working environments can often have the biggest impact on our wellbeing.
1. Check in: Colleagues are the ones most likely to spot changes in behaviour in each other. If you notice someone is quieter, more distant, or perhaps more irritable than usual, this may be a sign they are struggling with something. A simple 10-minute call can make a big difference and start a constructive conversation
2. Planning: Driving schedules should be carefully planned with employees to help reduce stress and ensure proper breaks can be taken, while they fulfil their schedule. Try to be adaptable where possible, to consider shift patterns and family management
3. Proactivity: Encourage drivers to be proactive about looking after their mental health and creating a helpful work-home balance, including working flexibly where possible. Give them space to take time for themselves and the activities they enjoy, away from work
4. Rest: Emphasise to your drivers the importance of getting enough rest. Not only will this improve performance, it could also prevent additional stress and help aid positive mental health. Remember, stress and uncertainty are demanding on mental health and may be experienced or mistaken as fatigue
5. Wellbeing: Promote to your drivers the importance of looking after their physical wellbeing and eating well, as this can help to improve self-esteem and cognitive function. Simple exercise or getting outside for some fresh air each day can provide a positive boost
6. Support: Make sure employees are aware of the help, tools and support available to them within your organisation. This could be through Mental Health First Aiders, helplines, assistance in tackling work-related triggers and creating a mental health hub so they know where to turn, if in need. Knowing there is support available will help create an inclusive, considerate atmosphere
7. Training: Ensure sufficient mental health training is provided for all managers and regular refreshers are offered, to enable an open and supportive working environment around mental health
8. Communicate: Speaking about a ‘mental health at work’ plan creates an open dialogue around the topic and encourages input from employees, helping to remove stigma. Some people may need more support than others, and are less likely to speak up if they are struggling
9. Feedback: Provide drivers with regular opportunities to feedback, so you can gather data to continually build upon the working environment and your ‘mental health at work’ plan. Demonstrate actions and show how changes are being made to support positive mental health, following feedback within your organisation
10. Language: Struggles with mental health can affect anyone, at any time. Try not to define a person by their behaviour, as certain phrases or definitions could be unhelpful or cause offence. Remind your employees that they are not alone and exercise compassion in the way you discuss the topic, either in a group or individual situation.
In summary, it’s important that drivers are not only aware of the resources available to them, but also feel empowered to make use of them and be their authentic self within the workplace. By establishing supportive, ongoing dialogue and discussing mental health in the right way, we can shape how it’s perceived within our organisations and across the industry. This needs to be at the heart of the duty of care as an employer, to ensure drivers are kept safe and feel comfortable seeking the support they need.
We strongly support this approach and want to underline its importance. Please contact us anytime if you'd like to learn more about extended or flexible leasing options to give your drivers more room.