The logistics sector plays a vital role in the economy and accounts for nearly 8% of GDP. It is growing fast, with a 15% increase in employment between 2015 and 2019. Approximately 3.5 million people currently work as drivers, warehouse operatives and freight forwarders, while the government has determined that around 1.2 million more workers will be required in coming years to meet demand.
But what impact is increased pressure, competition, and longer working hours having on the mental health of logistics workers?
The logistics industry is one of the UK's most important sectors, but it has been largely overlooked when it comes to workplace wellbeing and mental health.
While the logistics sector is one of the UK's largest employers and will grow by up to a quarter over the next eight years, issues associated with work stress in this area are only just starting to be uncovered.
As an industry that has traditionally been male-dominated with a culture that has often highlighted physical and mental toughness as part of the job, there are still hurdles to overcome in being completely open about mental health issues.
The culmination of industry challenges, coupled with the added stress of the pandemic, has highlighted the drastic need for better mental health support of workers to not only save lives, but improve business outcomes for companies – leading to more jobs and happier workers.
According to a report from The University of Manchester's Alliance Manchester Business School, male-dominated workforces, such as in the haulage and logistics sectors, are among the hardest hit by the effects of poor mental health.
The problem is not that males are more prone to mental health disorders. In fact, according to The Mental Health Foundation, "women are more likely to be diagnosed with common mental disorders". The problem is that men are less likely to discuss their mental health issues. At least, they are less likely to pursue professional help than women.
The industry generates jobs for a variety of people, including drivers and warehouse workers, as well as logistics managers who oversee their operations. This is why we need to raise awareness of these issues at every level, from government to managers and individuals on the ground, and make sure that appropriate support is in place for everyone working in this important sector.
Logistics workers face a range of issues associated with their work
The mental health of logistics workers, who are often far from home and isolated from the people they love, is a notable problem facing this industry.
There is prevalent stigmatisation of mental health problems and as such, there is a widespread lack of understanding, prevention, and support for the thousands of people working in transport and logistics that are affected by their conditions.
There are several everyday stressors that have a profound impact on mental health, such as:
Being away from family and friends for long periods of time
Working long hours with lack of breaks
Sedentary work requiring little physical activity
Lack of control over work schedule
Repetitive work, which can also lead to boredom
Stressful, demanding job duties
Poor work/life balance
It's important to be aware of factors so that you can spot the signs early and support your workforce with their mental health.
A mental health culture within the sector is developing
Conversations around mental health are becoming more common within the sector. A mental health culture is developing as business leaders and workers become more educated about mental health issues and what can be done to minimise them.
As well as making sure people know where to go to get help, it’s also important to create a supportive workplace culture where staff feel comfortable talking about their mental wellbeing. Making everyone understand how they can play a role in looking out for their friends will reduce the stigma around talking about stress, anxiety or depression at work.
Addressing mental health in your organisation
The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to help support your staff and make them feel valued.
Create a culture of openness and inclusivity - this is the best way to encourage people to talk about their mental health issues. Your employees may be worried about what will happen if they raise their concerns or disclose a mental health problem. It is important that you let them know that there will be no negative consequences if they do so.
Encourage open communication by setting up anonymous feedback channels - this allows employees to have an outlet for their feelings without feeling pressure from management. You should also make sure that all managers are trained on how to recognise signs of stress or depression in their employees so they can help before things escalate further.
Promote workplace wellness programs - these programs provide employees with ways to deal with stress such as mindfulness training and exercise classes. They also give them an opportunity to discuss their issues without fear of judgement.