Fleet News

Fleet Panel: Are you really stressed at work?

OVERWORKED, undervalued and insecure – that was the picture painted by latest research into how fleet managers feel in their current roles.

Investigations by the Chartered Management Institute showed that one in three fleet managers work 14 hours a week more than they are paid for, a quarter feel exploited and more than half feel overloaded with work (Fleet NewsNet, July 22).

More than 1,500 transport managers were questioned for the survey, which showed fleet decision-makers being overwhelmed by the amount of work they had to do while also dealing with constantly changing legislation and the threat of legal action if they don’t do their jobs properly and drivers or the public are injured.

According to Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, which completed the Business Energy Survey, the problem lies with senior management believing one thing about morale, when those closer to the coal-face have vastly differing experiences.

She said: ‘Businesses need to spend more time talking with their managers and listening to their concerns and ideas.’

The survey also showed that 56% of respondents missed family commitments because of work pressure and 32% believed their company responded to change in a haphazard way.

Richard Macmillan, managing director of the survey sponsor, Adecco UK and Ireland, said: ‘This research highlights that energy levels among managers in the transport sector are dangerously low.

‘However, employees are not afraid to work at this level providing their ideas are heard and they can be made to feel valued, empowered and are allowed to work more flexibly.’

Fleet News carried out its own research among its Fleet Panel of more than 160 fleet decision-makers and found a mixed response.

We asked: ‘Do you believe that the current demands of your role mean you are overworked and stressed?’

Just over half (58%) said yes, with many blaming the Government’s focus on health and safety creating a mountain of paperwork. But others disagreed, saying they didn’t consider themselves any more stressed than any other worker in Britain. However, the Government is moving to reduce the stress levels of workers in all industries.

This year, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced six ‘pressure points’ that will be measured to ensure employers are not putting staff under too much stress. The six main factors identified as contributing to workplace stress are: demands, control, support, relationships, roles and change. The employer will be assessed using these factors to see whether they have tried to keep stress within a manageable level. If less than 65% to 85% of all workers within a business feel these factors have not been met then the employer will have failed the assessment and legal experts say they may face prosecution as a result.

The HSE acted following research showing about half-a-million people experience work-related stress at a level they believe was making them ill. Up to five million people in the UK feel ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ stressed by their work, and work-related stress costs society between £3.7 billion and £3.8 billion every year.

However, the scheme is currently at the pilot stage, with findings due to be reported in November.

HSE draft six-point test

  • Demands – at least 85% of employees indicate they can cope with the demands of their job
  • Control – at least 85% of employees feel that they have a say over the work they do
  • Support – at least 85% of employees must feel that they have the information and back-up they need
  • Relationships – at least 65% of employees must say they are not subjected to unacceptable behaviour at work, eg bullying
  • Role – at least 65% of employees must understand their roles and responsibilities
  • Change – at least 65% of employees must feel they are involved in changes

    Do you believe the current demands of your role mean you are overworked and stressed?

    Yes: 58%
    No: 42%

    Fleet managers’ views

    ‘A qualified yes, but it’s dangerous to group overwork and stress as one issue. Stress occurs when you have no control. As an industry, fleet management is becoming complex, but many managers prefer to remain unaware of the things causing concern or they’d be stressed. I’m tactful with fleet management consultancy proposals these days.’
    Bill Pinkney Transport consultant

    ‘No. If you responded yes, get a job with a caring employer and good stress policy.’
    Dave Gill

    ‘Yes, this is common within industry generally. Companies are only paying lip service to working time directives and, with continued reductions in staff, I don’t see any changes ahead. The HSE’s Driving at Work document will help, but adds stress to fleet managers as they get management to act on the content.’

    ‘Definitely. I particularly find the demands of the health and safety issues a problem, when implementing them and getting senior management to agree to the changes required.’

    ‘No, I have a good team and we all work together to tackle current and ongoing issues.’
    Audrey Milne
    Group fleet manager, Bayer

    ‘There’s too much work at present which is causing stress, but that’s no different from many of my colleagues within the company and the wider engineering sector. It is a fact of modern business life. As for being undervalued – most definitely not.’

    ‘Yes. Fleet responsibility can be just part of a job description and reporting to someone who has no interest or understanding of fleet issues compounds the problem.’

    ‘It is difficult to answer this question as I cannot divorce the fleet management duties from my other responsibilities. The company is a UK subsidiary of a Swedish Group but only small with 88 employees. I have a finance assistant who helps with the fleet. We also sub-contract our repairs management to a fleet management firm from whom we contract hire vehicles on a ‘excluding maintenance’ basis. The big issue with the fleet at the moment is keeping abreast with health and safety responsibilities and legal requirements. This is a big issue throughout my job. I honestly believe that to comply 100% with the law and health and safety would result in most companies having to employ at least one other person that, in a lot of cases, would not be viable. It is complying with health, safety and legal issues which creates stress.’

    ‘I feel the only answer is ‘no’, as if it was not for our workload we would not have a job. A job only becomes a chore when things go wrong. But with careful management of time and resources, and support from directors and suppliers, stress should not be a problem. We all feel exploited and undervalued, but if the rewards were ten-fold, after a while we would want more again. So plan your day, own the problem, if in doubt shout, deal with unexpected events carefully and chill out.’
    Micky Jackson
    ‘A chilled-out fleet manager’, BEW Electrical Distributors

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