Their stories emphasise the importance of newly-launched Health and Safety Executive guidance that sets out management standards for tackling work-related stress. But many fleet managers believe their firms are falling well below the required levels.
The HSE is focusing on stress after research suggested that half a million people in the UK experience work-related stress at a level they believe is making them ill. Up to five million people in the UK feel ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ stressed by their work.
One fleet manager told Fleet News at the Institute of Car Fleet Management annual conference last week: ‘I used to look after insurance and the boss said, ‘well, you know about cars, we’ll give you the whole lot’. I didn’t know what I was doing at all and it was only by using my own money to pay for training that I managed to scrape through.’
Another fleet manager contacted Fleet News after the extra pressure of running her firm’s fleet with no formal qualifications or assistance from company bosses eventually led to her having a nervous breakdown, necessitating her taking weeks off work to recover. Her story is told on the left. Both asked not to be named.
ICFM chairman Tom Madden said: ‘It’s not so much stress, but distress, which comes about when someone lacks the knowledge to deal with the situation, and many people find this when they are given a fleet to run on top of other jobs. This is when training can help.’
The standards laid down by the HSE can be applied to any area of work, including fleet. A Fleet News survey in September found that half of fleet managers feel they are overloaded with work, with one in three working 14 hours more than they are paid for.
THE HSE STRESS CODE
Employees should be able to:
Managing a fleet made me ill
This woman reveals how the pressures of taking on fleet management eventually led to a nervous breakdown
I WAS appointed as a secretary this year. One of the duties was to manage the fleet of 140 cars. With no training, I muddled along being asked to do the job in four-and-half hours a day instead of the eight hours my predecessor had to do it. I soon got stuck into the role and enjoyed meeting so many people. Every day was different and challenging.
I asked to go on a seminar to improve my knowledge but it wasn’t deemed necessary by my boss. Ideas to improve the fleet flowed as I became more interested and I would wake up in the night and write down ideas on a note pad. But after seven months of hard graft, taking work home and working long hours, I had a breakdown and my doctor signed me off with stress.
Finally, a decision has been made to have the fleet run by a qualified fleet manager, but it was too late for me. There was no support and, besides, I was just a secretary – and in my firm it was supposed that secretaries do not have brains. It ruined my life for nearly a year. If only my bosses had had more understanding about the pressures.