In a world where our commercial drivers are spending more and more time alone in their cabs, checking in on their mental health and safety has never been so crucial. But, it’s got to be done delicately.
Checking in on your drivers to see how they’re doing, is completely different to checking up on your drivers to see how they’re performing. There can sometimes be a fine line in the working environment where concern can come across as micro managing, so it’s important to approach things carefully and always remember that you’re their to support, not judge.
Recently, a mental health resource has been published by Alphabet, designed to help fleet managers do exactly that, and it follows research that revealed that almost two thirds of commercial drivers said their mental health has been affected throughout 2020. What’s more, it highlighted that younger age groups were most impacted, with 67% of 18–24-year-olds and 44% of 25–34-year-olds stating their mental health has deteriorated. Not only a case of shorter, darker days and winter weather conditions, but the pandemic itself would have only added to the strains placed on fleet drivers, keeping them further away from social interaction.
“Soon we will be marking a year of living under lockdown restrictions and continued uncertainty, so it is understandable that many will be experiencing mental health concerns,” said Nick Brownrigg, Alphabet (GB) CEO. “Now, more than ever, the fleet industry needs to shine a spotlight on mental wellbeing and create an open forum to accelerate discussions around mental health.”
So how can employers encourage drivers to open up to them, and not feel like they’re not able to talk?
Try developing an internal culture of openness and honesty. Drivers who feel able to discuss personal problems with their employers without fear of reprisal or derision will be far more likely to do so.
A transparent culture can do a great deal to lighten the load of mental health problems affecting drivers. Creating an open internal culture means that mental health issues are likely to be dealt with appropriately sooner, which can prevent unnecessary stress as well as potential reputational damage to the firm itself. Plus, once one person opens up it is far more likely that others will do so too.
Driver training is one way in which fleets could proactively address mental health issues. By making drivers aware of mental health matters through continual training, firms can encourage their driving workforce to address issues they have either experienced themselves or witnessed among their colleagues.
Another way could be to offer different lines of communication. Some drivers may not physically want to talk, but may still want to share. Try an anonymous forum, inbox or chat, where people can write down how they’re feeling and see if anyone else is experiencing the same. The famous saying of “a problem shared is a problem halved” absolutely does apply here, and you never know how one person opening up could impact others around them.
Ultimately, all employers have a duty of care to their staff while at work, so it is incumbent upon fleets to take active steps to ensure that their drivers’ health – physical and mental – is regularly monitored.
However, drivers may be reluctant to admit their struggles through fear of the potential repercussions, so employers must stress that drivers can discuss these matters openly and frankly, and that they will receive a sympathetic hearing in doing so.
The key thing to remember here is that whilst commercial drivers spend so much time lone working, they’re never alone. Their business and fleet managers are there to support them, its just a case of making that known.