Navigating drivers’ mental wellbeing in a COVID-19 world

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an overwhelming impact on the mental health of the global population and professional drivers in Australia are not immune to this.  

Poor mental health is detrimental to driving performance and road safety because it affects a driver’s behaviours and decision-making while on the road. This shines a spotlight on the importance of maintaining good mental health especially during the pandemic. 

Workplace stress among drivers during the pandemic 

According to VicRoads, drivers suffering from mental health problems may not have a clear focus which then increases the chances of having an accident. 

In early 2021, car leasing and business mobility specialist Alphabet GB found that 35 percent of fleet drivers said their mental health has been affected by COVID-19. According to their research, the longer working hours and the need to take on increase workloads have contributed to this.  

As essential workers drivers are under pressure to deliver essential goods and services during these trying times. Drivers can experience fear and anxiety of contracting the virus while on the road.  

Furthermore, working long hours in an isolated environment and spending so much time away from family and friends can also take a toll on drivers’ mental well-being. 

And when this is all paired with the usual stresses of being in the mobile workplace, it can be difficult to focus on driving safely. 

Improving mental health in the mobile workplace 

Dealing with the psychological effects of the pandemic in fleets should be a combined effort of individual drivers and fleet managers. 

For drivers, staying mentally safe and healthy in the mobile workplace involves practising self-care. This can include: 

  • Staying connected with family and friends as often as you can and regularly checking in on others 
  • Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting quality sleep 
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and drugs 
  • Bringing a piece of home with you like a family photo or your favourite mug 
  • Taking regular breaks especially during long-haul drives to relax and recharge 
  • Reaching out to crisis, support, and information services like LifelineBeyond Blue, and ReachOut when you feel like you need help with your mental health 

For fleet managers on the other hand, it’s a matter of providing the right kind support to promote mental wellbeing in the mobile workplace. Some useful strategies include: 

  • Regularly checking in with drivers and encouraging drivers to be proactive about their mental health 
  • Planning schedules carefully 
  • Keeping the lines of communication open about mental health 
  • Including mental health topics in drivers’ training plans 
  • Providing access to health and well-being checks 
  • Conducting regular driver risk assessments 

Drivers’ mental health matters just as much as their physical well-being in the mobile workplace. It is crucial for fleets to work towards addressing the stress, anxiety, and fears associated with the global pandemic to ensure that drivers are safe on the road.