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Driver mental wellbeing must be top priority for fleets, says Venson

Ensuring driver mental wellbeing must be a top priority for fleets as businesses exit lockdown and drivers return to the roads.

The warning comes from Venson as new research by the charity Mind identifies a coronavirus mental health crisis while third-party research has also shown the impact of lockdown on driver hours.

According to Mind, the coronavirus pandemic is as much a mental health emergency as it is a physical one; the charity is calling for the Government to urgently plan for recovery from the coronavirus mental health crisis as it warns of a “deep and lasting scar on our nation’s mental health”.

This is backed by Mind’s survey of more than 16,000 people during lockdown, which found that more than one in five adults (22%) with no previous experience of poor mental health now say that their mental health is poor or very poor.

Meanwhile, research carried out by Mercedes-Benz Vans has revealed that a driver’s average working week increased by almost five hours during lockdown, as many played a key role in keeping the country moving during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As lockdown eases and brings new fleet management challenges, Venson Automotive Solutions is asking businesses to ensure the extra hours undertaken during lockdown, alongside the new processes being accommodated to address relaxed social distancing, don’t take a toll on drivers’ mental and physical well-being.

Marketing director Alison Bell said: “The events of the last four months have been enough to heighten stress and anxiety levels for the calmest of people. With state of mind a critical element to driving safely, drivers who suffer from work-related stress are more likely to speed and take other risks while driving, which can lead to serious accidents. Keeping the conversation open and having processes in place that allow staff to feel empowered to express any concerns that could undermine their fitness to drive, is an essential part of any health and safety policy.

“As well as providing information on how to avoid stress when driving, such as preparing a vehicle,  allowing time for additional hygiene measures and regular breaks throughout the day, businesses could incorporate some of the tips from the Mental Health Foundation on how to embed good mental health processes.”

Venson has also published its own whitepaper, dubbed ‘It is good to talk: Caring about Mental Health’. Free to download, it promotes good mental health at work practices and offers practical help and advice.

Bell added: “Now, more than ever, employees who drive on business should have easy access to advice and information on how to relieve stress, achieve a good night’s sleep, eat healthily and stay hydrated. It’s important not just for their safety but for the increasing number of drivers, as more businesses move out of lock down and more vehicles return to the road.”

Venson’s top tips for supporting driver mental health and well-being:

  • Create a pro-active, rather than reactive company culture where anyone experiencing problems can ask for help and know that they will be supported.
  • Set up regular employee surveys to build data about staff mental health, and use the findings to plan and deliver workplace policies.
  • Make senior managers responsible for leading mental health activities, such as mental health awareness sessions, with all managers engaged in the activity.
  • Offer training to line managers on how they can support staff with stress and mental health problems.
  • Driving schedules should be planned so that staff are not required to drive too far or too fast and should include adequate rest breaks.
  • Stress can be caused when employees do not feel competent to fulfil their duties. Offer regular driver assessment and training so that such concerns can identified and addressed.
  • Make adjustments, where possible, to an employee’s work pattern to remove barriers and allow them to stay in work.
  • Encourage staff to report discrimination or harassment they face and to blow the whistle on discrimination they witness.

 

Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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