Throughout the pandemic companies have become more aware of their employees’ mental well-being. In an industry where such conversations were not part of day-to-day activities it is understandable that many managers and workers still struggle to find the right words. One of the groups that is most affected are HGV drivers, who spend days away from their families and experience high levels of stress. Simon Crick, from Openspace, supported by the RHA, to create a space where drivers can share their stories and receive support.
‘At the start of our research phase it was evident that trying to get the driver community to open up about their well-being and mental health was going to be really hard,’ begins Crick, who has launched the platform Openspace where HGV drivers get support and recommendations based on the way they feel.
What Openspace found was that many drivers were not ready to open up about the way they felt and what problems they experienced being away from home. Many would answer such questions quickly without much thought. According to Crick the reason is hidden in the fact the industry is mainly male dominated, with drivers predominantly over 45 years old, who might find it hard to express their emotions.
“Drivers receive notifications and suggestions on things that might help them depending on how they had evaluated their well-being.”
‘After running some well-being focused sessions around physical activity, sleep, mental health awareness we had poor attendance and decided to change our approach slightly,’ Crick continues. Instead of branding the sessions as mental health support the sessions turned them into a space where drivers can share their day-to-day frustrations and stories. This had a positive effect as attendees felt they had someone who would like to listen to them. ‘Before that many drivers didn’t see the point and said no one was listening to them anyway,’ explains Crick.
Openspace also found better results from providing information in a more passive way rather than providing instructions. Instead of telling drivers they needed to stretch the platform signpost them towards things that they could do to help relieve back pain, for example. This method proved much more successful.
How it works
Supported by the RHA the platform provides an unobtrusive way for drivers to anonymously inform their employers of their overall well-being and mental health.It is also able to signpost the drivers towards resources available to them, both within a companies existing HR package or freely available external resources and material which they can then choose to engage with. Over time Openspace monitors, tracks and reports these individual and combined average scores to help organisations make more strategic and effective investments in supporting their drivers. It can also correlate this wellness data with an organisations data sources across HR, telematic and tachograph data too to help organisations make more informed decisions with regards to the wellbeing and mental health support of their drivers.
The information gathered through Openspace is anonymised and shared with the development department or the HR department. Drivers receive notifications and suggestions on things that might help them depending on how they had evaluated their well-being. ‘Our platform focuses on 10 areas of well-being, which makes up an overall well-being score – all data is anonymised so we are able to provide trend analysis across the whole driver workforce rather than focus on individuals, which can then be correlated with overall telematic and tachograph data,’ Crick adds.
The role of the management team, however, is still significant. Crick recommends an approach where managers do not go and ask directly well-being related questions as this might be intimidating. Nevertheless, if drivers are continuously scoring low, operators are encouraged to have a closer look and consider engaging with specialists if needed. Openspace helps to signpost drivers towards organisations and professional help.
“At the start of our research phase it was evident that trying to get the driver community to open up about their well-being and mental health was going to be really hard.”
Well-being and particularly mental health is very personal and needs to be approached with caution – some people could respond in a negative way if they are directly approached on this, so it’s hard to get it right. Many organisations who are trying to run well-being classes have found not only that drivers might not engage but that they are a very expensive initiative. Crick believes that more logistics and haulage companies are recognising the importance of mental health for their staff and are actively seeking ways to deal with any problems. ✷