Many people have spent the year concerned about COVID-19 and how it could affect their life, from their health to their employment. For some, this has put additional strain on their mental and physical wellbeing that can make driving more challenging, so it’s important for both drivers and managers to ensure these are being considered when getting back to work after the second lockdown.
Below are some steps fleet managers and business drivers can take to ensure a smooth transition back to work, while also being mindful of the psychological pressures that come with it.
- Consider FAQ bulletins. If you’re receiving lots of emails about the same issue, consider putting out an FAQ. This can help clear up more time for you in the long run, while also allowing drivers to easily find answers to questions and concerns they might have.
- Watch for signs of stress. Spotting the signs of stress in your drivers is the first step in working to reduce it and will help to make their time behind the wheel safer and more enjoyable. Key things to look for include fatigue, change in eating patterns and having difficulty concentrating.
- Don’t overload drivers. While backlogs of work and the need to get business back to normal can mean an increased workload, it’s important not to overload drivers. Dr Lisa Dorn, Director of Research and Development at DriverMetrics, says “having to complete a journey in a shorter amount of time leads to high mental workload, anxiety, frustration, and anger, which in turn reduces information processing efficiency while driving.”
- Start an open dialogue. Open dialogue is hugely important for managing mental health. Drivers and managers should feel free to discuss concerns or pressures they’re experiencing, so try to facilitate these discussions wherever possible.
- Take breaks when under pressure. This is especially true on long journeys when concentration can lapse, but if you’re feeling stressed or anxious it’s also worth taking breaks on shorter journeys too so that you can better focus when behind the wheel. If you’re having difficulty, try voicing your concerns with other drivers or a line manager to see if a solution can be found.
- Plan your route. Planning can help to take the uncertainty out of journeys and make driving less stressful. Lockdown also means that many roadwork programs were put on hold, so double check for any that might be due to begin along your route so that you can factor in enough time to compensate.
- Call ahead. If you plan to meet someone but are running late it’s worth calling ahead (before getting into your vehicle) so that you aren’t anxious about keeping them waiting for the length of your drive.
- Watch for fatigue. From micro sleeps to drifting lanes, fatigue can have serious consequences out on the roads. Make sure you’re aware of your sleeping habits and try to avoid missing even a few hours of sleep as this can be to the detriment of your mental health. For more tips on avoiding fatigue please see our tips
Rebecca Ashton, Head of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, said: “As people return to work it should be a combined effort between the employee and the employer to make things better; that way the employer will relieve a certain amount of stress on the employee because they will feel they have been involved in their plan to help them. There’s nothing worse than being kept in the dark.”
She adds: “The key thing is to talk; mental health is something people often won’t talk about but stress is not something you should hide. People should take this seriously and certainly not laugh their concerns off. The worst thing anyone can do is say ‘don’t be so stupid’.”
READ OUR LATEST GUIDE
Looking after the mental health of your drivers and colleagues is just one aspect of returning to work safely after lockdown. Download our latest Fleet Safety Guide below for a comprehensive view of all the key issues, and advice from our experts on how to deal with them effectively as the lockdown continues to ease.