With truck drivers constantly on the go, it can be easy to miss the signs of stress and burnout that can quickly lead to driver turnover. Job stress has also been linked to increased workplace accidents and even health problems. What can fleet managers do to address this?
“We often take these happenings as the nature of work, but it doesn't have to be this way,” explained Max Farrell, CEO and co-founder of WorkHound in a webinar on mental health and driver retention. “Real mental illnesses and disorders are costly work.”
What is Burnout?
People often throw around the word “burnout” in the workplace as a way of saying you’re tired, or in need of a vacation. But, from a clinician standpoint, it’s a medical diagnosis with a list of symptoms, explained Kirleen Neely, CEO of Neely EAP, a provider of employee assistance programs in the logistics industry, in the webinar.
Neely described burnout as a systemic issue, and one that is layered. Stress that is left unaddressed leads to burnout and it manifests in three dimensions. Drivers experience burnout’s three dimensions in this order:
Exhaustion is the earliest warning sign of burnout that leads to turnover. It’s about feeling chronically tired, not just physically tired.
“It’s important to catch people in the early stage of burnout, because their burnout at that point is only isolated to themselves,” explained Farrell. “But, as it gets worse, that burnout impacts more people and creates greater risk.”
Loneliness and loss of family life are primary stressors that lead to exhaustion, he said.
When exhaustion is left unchecked, it leads to cynicism.
Nearly half of drivers who submitted “critical comments” through WorkHound’s feedback platform are in this dimension of burnout, according to Farrell. Nearly 45% of those comments were about communication.
These feelings can be identified in feedback about interpersonal or departmental conflict; challenging communication styles; feeling disrespected or undervalued; and a lack of psychological safety.
Inefficacy is the feeling of being unproductive or incapable due to lack of skills or resources. According to Farrell, drivers often reference confusion over changing equipment, or ever-changing government regulations. There’s also feedback about being lied to by recruiting or lack of professional growth opportunities.
“Once drivers feel ineffective or unproductive, they’re more likely to seek a new employer, job or, even a new career,” he said.
What can a fleet do to address burnout?
Recommendation 1: Address Exhaustion
- Look for opportunities to get drivers home on a regular basis.
- Provide mental health resources to aid in coping with distance and loneliness.
- Offer resources to help drivers when they're sick, especially when they're far away from their primary care provider.
- Create a culture where it’s OK to say “I’m not OK,” and to talk about it.
Recommendation 2: Avoid Cynicism
- Ensure market alignment with wages.
- Promote respect for drivers and show recognition by hosting events where drivers can get to know their coworkers.
- Require new employees to spend time on the road with drivers.
- Schedule extra time for new customers or stressful accounts to ensure expectations are aligned for both drivers and customers.
Recommendation 3: Reverse Feelings of Inefficacy
- Ensure expectations are clear and that there is a clear path to succeed.
- Schedule regular check-ins.
- Provide training resources, social support with other teams, and host additional training seminars, wellness programs and stress-relief programs.
- Ensure driver managers are communicating in a way that emphasizes appreciation, recognition, and build self-worth.