Truck drivers can face mental health challenges due to isolation, stress, and addiction, but their employers can provide solutions by making employee wellness a priority. It’s one of the central themes during Mental Health Awareness Month, recognized in May.
A holistic approach to employee wellbeing is beneficial to companies, added Tanara Ferguson, project manager at Trucking HR Canada, during a webinar on the issue.
Employers can see the benefits through reduced absenteeism, lower presenteeism (where staff are present but productivity is reduced), lower benefits program costs due to lower utilization rates, greater job satisfaction, and reduced turnover. “This leads to profitability,” Ferguson said.
Best practices in mental health certainly help reduce workplace stress by reviewing job demands, setting realistic productivity targets, and providing feedback. Even financial stress can be eased through financial planning seminars or by providing second deposit payroll options. And workers’ at-home concerns can be addressed by providing company-funded emergency daycare options or allowing for scheduling flexibility at work, she said.
Employers could also help longhaul drivers who suffer from isolation by compensating them for unlimited phone data plans — so they can keep in touch with loved ones when away from home for long periods of time.
Ferguson said their families can also be put at ease by offering route maps to keep track of the drivers as they haul freight. Another way to combat loneliness is by assigning truck drivers check-in buddies who offer a regular connection.
Allowing pets in trucks is also a great way for drivers to avoid isolation, she added.
Tobacco cessation and healthier lifestyles
Substance abuse and addiction is another challenge, and sharing where and how truck drivers can find help can be beneficial. Offering tobacco cessation programs can help employees stub out the nicotine habit, she added as an example.
Meanwhile, drivers also face physical challenges due to their work environment. Diets may not be the healthiest, leading to higher risks for obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Long hours behind the wheel do the body no favors, and truckers often complain about back pain and aches. Finding time and a place to exercise can also be difficult, while disrupted sleep patterns come with the job.
Helping to address any of these issues will support a better mindset.
Conducting regular ergonomic assessments, for example, can ease such aches and pains.
Carriers can provide coolers in trucks and offer information on healthy meal preparation, she said. Providing wellness spending accounts, engaging personal trainers, and stocking cabs with portable fitness equipment will incentivize drivers to exercise, too.
Meditation and sleep apps
For improving sleep, employers can allow overnight hotels for longhaul truckers, provide access to meditation and sleep apps, and educate drivers about the importance of proper sleep, she said.
But Ferguson said having an employee wellness program is of no use if staff do not know about it. Company newsletters are a great way of spreading the word. Personal wellness stories and goals of employees could be highlighted. And health awareness contests could be another step in the right direction for a healthier workforce.