According to the Office for National Statistics, 15.8 million sick days were taken in 2017 due to mental health conditions such as work-related stress, anxiety or depression. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. In regards to mental health, drivers are a high-risk group. There are a number of contributing factors that place drivers in the high-risk category, making it more important than ever for employers to prioritise their drivers’ mental health.
This article will discuss the stressors affecting drivers, how to spot drivers dealing with mental health conditions, ways that drivers can look after their own mental health and what companies can do to support happy drivers.
What Affects the Mental Health of Drivers?
Drivers face a number of hurdles when it comes to mental health. Drivers often work long hours, which makes it difficult for them to spend time with friends and family.
Spending so much time alone can make drivers feel lonely and lead to anxiety or depression. The current pandemic has led to an increase in deliveries and may be exacerbating this issue.
Drivers also deal with a multitude of outside stressors on the job. Unpredictable environments —like getting stuck in traffic, driving through bad weather and dealing with angry drivers— can increase stress levels and cause burnout.
A driver’s lifestyle can also affect their mental health. Oftentime, drivers have irregular sleep patterns, rely on fast food while on the road and spend long hours sitting with limited physical activity during their rest periods.
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The Signs of “Un-happy Drivers”
Drivers struggling with mental health conditions may exhibit one or more of the following signs:
- A change in productivity: Is a driver working extra? Are they working less? A change in their working patterns and productivity may be a sign of an underlying issue.
- A shift in driving patterns: Examine your telematics data to see if a driver’s behaviour has changed at all. Poor driving behaviour, such as speeding, may be caused by tiredness or stress.
- An increase in sick days: Has a driver been calling in sick often? It could be that they’re struggling with a mental health condition and don’t feel comfortable telling you about it. It’s estimated that 95% of people who call in sick because of stress cite a different reason.
Tips for Drivers to Improve Mental Health
Prioritising your mental health is easier said than done when you’re on the road by yourself for long stretches of time. However, there are a few key ways drivers can ease their stress and improve their mental health:
- Invest in a hands-free headset: Using a handheld device while driving is illegal, but with a hands-free headset you can listen to audiobooks, podcasts, music and more while driving.
- Check in with friends and family: During rest periods, drivers should make it a point to phone family and friends. Having some form of social interaction while on the road is vital.
- Stay active: Drivers should incorporate physical activity into their routine whenever possible. This could involve doing bodyweight exercises or stretches at a truck stop, participating in fitness classes on their days off or going for walks.
What Can Companies Do?
The main thing companies can do to support happy drivers is prioritise the mental health of their employees. Drivers should not overwork themselves, and schedules shouldn’t force drivers to travel too far or too fast without enough breaks. Fleet Geo is a great tool to help uphold HGV driving rules and to monitor working hours so you don’t overwork your drivers.
Additionally, managers should be trained to spot the signs of mental health changes. Encourage managers to ask after drivers’ well-being and promote open discussions about their mental health.
Lastly, regularly assess drivers’ mental health. Try to pinpoint causes of stress and anxiety and take action to remedy them.
Supporting Happy Drivers
It can be easy to manage the health of your vehicle, but what about the health of your drivers? Drivers have a higher risk of developing mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. Working long hours, sitting for long periods of time and spending extended periods of time alone can contribute to this.
Companies that want happy drivers need to prioritise the mental health of their employees. Vehicle tracking systems can make the lives of drivers easier and healthier.