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Fleet managers must prioritise drivers’ mental wellbeing, says Alphabet

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Alphabet has published a mental health resource to help fleet managers prioritise and check their drivers’ wellbeing.

It follows research that shows nearly two thirds of fleet drivers found their mental health has been affected when driving for work during the pandemic.

Younger age groups were most likely to be impacted, with 67% of 18–24-year-olds and 44% of 25–34-year-olds acknowledging their mental health was often affected. Darker days and harsher weather conditions of winter have only added to the strains placed on fleet drivers.

Nick Brownrigg, Alphabet (GB) CEO, said: “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.

“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. 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 our duty of care as employers, to ensure drivers are kept safe and feel comfortable seeking the support they need.”

Half of fleet drivers surveyed said driving this winter had caused their mental health to decline, and 20% often looked to reduce travelling in winter months to prevent additional anxiety and stress caused from tougher driving circumstances, such as reduced daylight and poor road conditions.

Alphabet, working with mental health expert and Psychologist, Kimberley Wilson, has created the Driver MOT guide specifically with a focus on driver wellbeing; to highlight the importance of mental health during an increasingly difficult time. The guide offers fleet managers support and advice to encourage open conversations with employees around mental health and personal wellbeing, across the fleet industry and beyond.

Wilson added: “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. But lifestyle factors also play a crucial role in supporting our resilience.

“The most effective protective measures we have for positive mental health are supportive relationships, regular exercise, good nutrition, and adequate sleep and rest. However, the pandemic has added several new pressures, and greatly increased day-to-day uncertainty while removing many of our usual coping strategies. This all turns up the volume on our anxious or negative thoughts.

“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.”

Alphabet’s Driver MOT guide:

  • 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
  • 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 managemen
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

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