Entering the new year with a focus on mental health

15 January 2020

Everyone knows just how stressful Christmas can be, but for those in the transport and logistics sector the pressure can be even more extreme.

The run-up to Christmas, now preceded by the dual double peak of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is very often the busiest time of year for the logistics sector, where demand spikes massively.

Greater workloads and longer shift patterns, coupled with darker nights during winter and heavier traffic can all have a negative effect on the mental health of those involved with every link of the supply chain.

But now things are beginning to change and the industry is focusing much more heavily on the wellbeing and health of those who work in it.

With that in mind, TNB spoke to leading charity Mind to look at how transport operators can start the new year on a fresh and positive footing, putting the mental health of colleagues high on the agenda.

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said, “Commonly cited causes of stress and poor mental health at work include long working hours, lone or remote working and lack of support from colleagues or managers – all things professional drivers are likely to experience on a daily basis.

“Unsociable or long shifts make it difficult to establish a regular routine and sleep pattern, particularly if you have to fit non-work related tasks around early starts and late finishes.”

Emma continued, “Working alone and regularly spending time away from your support network of friends and family can take their toll on our mental wellbeing.

“It’s no surprise that, if left unsupported, drivers, particularly long-haul drivers, may experience a deterioration in their health and changes to their performance. Those who spend much of their working day on the road often struggle to maintain a healthy diet or find the time to take exercise throughout the day, both of which can have a knock-on impact on our physical and mental health.”

But despite the many issues which can all detrimentally effect the mental health of drivers, Emma is quick to point out that attitudes are changing and support is now more readily available than ever before.

She said, “Fortunately, all employers are beginning to recognise the need to promote wellbeing for their staff, including those with mental health problems.

“At Mind, we encourage employers to put in place measures which help tackle the causes of work-related stress and poor mental health, promote wellbeing for all staff, and support employees experiencing mental health problems.

“Small, inexpensive measures such as buddy systems, flexible working hours, generous annual leave, and regular catch ups between staff, and access to Employee Assistance Programmes such as a confidential support line can all make a huge difference.”

Emma continued, “If you’re struggling with your mental health at work, speak to someone you trust about it to see if there is any support that can be put in place.

All employers have a duty under the Equality Act to provide reasonable adjustments for any employee who discloses a disability, which can include a mental health problem if it has a substantial, adverse, and long term effect on normal day-to-day activities.

“Staff who need to take time off due to stress or mental health problems should be treated exactly the same as those who take sick leave for a physical health problem, such as back or neck pain. But we know that too often, that isn’t the case.”

For all those working in the industry, not just drivers, here are Mind’s top tips to safeguarding your mental health in the workplace:

Reclaim your breaks

Make the most of those precious breaks and make sure you take regular breaks even if you don’t feel you need one.

Get outdoors

Get outside in the sun and enjoy some fresh air and perhaps enjoy some time socialising with colleagues. Take time to enjoy the outdoors and get re-energised for an afternoon of productive work.

Take part in group activity

If there’s a green space near your workplace why not organise a game of rounders or football, hold a guerrilla gardening session, or a group walk?

Take up a challenge

Local sponsored walks or marathons are a great way to keep active. Sign with your colleagues and train together. Participating as part of a team can give a communal sense of achievement when you complete the challenge.

Whistle while you work

If you’re feeling stressed, listening to a calming song can take your mind off work for a few minutes and help you unwind and refocus.