When health is wealth in logistics

Mental health problems are rarely discussed in the transport sector. But logistics provider PML is a company that is taking steps to address mental wellbeing in this male-dominated industry.

A few statistics to set the tone: According to Mental Health First Aid, one in four people will develop a mental health problem in any given year.

According to the charity Mental Health.org, men’s mental health is a significant problem: About 1 in 8 people experience a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, with men aged 40-49 having the highest suicide rates. in the UK and less likely to have access to psychological therapies than women – only 36% of referrals to NHS talk therapies are for men.

But in a Priory survey, although 77% of the men surveyed claimed to have had mental health problems, 40% of the men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health.

And since these are just the reported statistics, this is probably the tip of the iceberg.
In a male-dominated sector such as logistics, which has historically attracted more men than women, nearly 1.5 million people work in the transport and logistics sector in the UK, but less than a quarter of these are women, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. It is likely that the topic of mental health will remain a taboo topic. But with the Priory’s research citing work as the number one cause of mental health, isn’t it time the industry took action?

Work environment under pressure
If ever there was a time when workers in our industry – both men and women – were under increased pressure and were therefore vulnerable to endangering their mental health, it’s now.

Although recognized as key workers during the pandemic, businesses involved in the transfer of essential goods, including food and drink, often went unrecognized during the various shutdowns, although staff continued to work around the clock to replenish supplies. often endangering themselves and their families .

This was in stark contrast to the many people on leave, some of whom were enjoying a very relaxing summer in the sun! In addition, the mounting problems related to Brexit and the apparent impact on the efficient movement of food and drink in particular have created a high-pressure working environment for employees, hampered by the continuous changes in government guidelines and the ensuing confusion and ultimately lengthy delays. in both airports and seaports.

Add to that the intense stress caused by such delays for the truck driver community, particularly those delivering perishable goods where shorter shelf life is not an option – at a time when drivers were scarce – and it’s fair to say that staff work in a highly charged environment. Especially when due to covid/travel issues most have not been able to sign out completely and leave to recharge the batteries.

Addressing mental health
Act as the number one cause of mental health, so it’s time the industry took action, says PML. Ten PML employees recently signed up for a Mental Health First Aid, England course.

The course gave participants access to mental health first aid guidance and was designed to equip line managers with a step-by-step framework to help create a healthier workplace. It included a focus on key areas such as learning to recognize an employee with mental health issues; how to manage and support them at work, while they are sick and when they return to work, while also providing advice on how to prevent the early symptoms of mental health problems from escalating into serious illness.

HR Manager Imrana Giannotto said: “The course has proven to be really helpful in providing sound practical advice to help us recognize the tell-tale signs that an employee’s mental health is being tested – and most importantly, putting in place practices and procedures about a situation where a colleague has a real mental illness Noticing the little things like withdrawing from a regular conversation, lack of cooperation, presenteeism, frequent complaints that you are tired all the time, these can all indicate that someone can’t handle it and needs support.

Imrana Giannotto, Human Resource Manager, PML

“One of the company’s strengths has always been its genuine commitment to employee wellbeing and we believe our industry needs to be more open about the need to discuss mental wellbeing. The training has opened our eyes to the importance of this and we are now looking at training more staff to ensure that mental first aid becomes as important as physical first aid within our company.”

Being open to discussing mental health is a big step forward and is especially relevant to single people, such as truck drivers who can spend many hours without the company and support of colleagues. PML has already made significant investments to improve the physical wellbeing of truck drivers at its state-of-the-art transport and logistics hub in Kent, including a driver wellbeing unit that provides 24/7 security and safe parking so drivers get a good night’s sleep without fear of burglary or stowaways by migrants; clean toilets and showers; access to on-site catering for hot meals and snacks and vending machines with essential toiletries. However, recognizing the need to monitor signs of emotional distress is now an equally high priority.

Appreciate the staff
Feeling valued is an integral part of a positive frame of mind. Small actions by the company – which don’t have to be expensive – can make a big difference. The recent platinum anniversary was an opportunity for PML to celebrate with the staff, who received a boxed afternoon tea as a gesture of thanks for their continued support.

Likewise, buying ice creams for the team on a hot day and setting up a dedicated women’s golf team to provide a permanent place to ‘settle’ from the stress of work are all examples of meaningful – but not high budget – gestures that go a long way.

Creating a dedicated space for employees to relax rather than eat a sandwich at their desk is another well-received initiative that has been put to good use at PML’s Heathrow headquarters. Listening to staff suggestions – and acting on them – has also proven helpful, from installing a hot water dispenser in the packing station to raising money for a charity of interest to a particular employee.

Best practice makes sense for the company
Protecting staff from mental illness makes both moral and commercial sense. Employee retention is an excellent indicator of a happy workforce and businesses that fail to realize the growing awareness of mental and physical well-being will be adversely affected.

Losing staff is costly, it takes time and extensive training to replace valuable employees and can create a climate of turmoil within the team. Likewise, long-term and frequent absenteeism is also expensive and disruptive.

“We should all try harder to create a pleasant and stimulating environment that promotes a sense of well-being. Likewise, as employers, we have a responsibility to be available to staff to discuss any issues outside of their jobs. Being able to show genuine concern for a person should not only extend to when they are in the workplace,” says Giannotto.

As the social movement Time To Change first decreed in 2007, it’s time to change the way people think and act about mental health issues. Let’s make sure that also applies to the logistics sector.

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Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England is a social enterprise with a vision to improve the country’s mental health. It is the largest provider of mental health first aid training in the UK and Europe, with over a decade of experience helping businesses create and maintain healthier workplaces.

Poor mental health costs British employers up to £56 billion a year. But for every £1 employers spend on mental health interventions, they get back £5.30 in reduced absences, presenteeism and employee turnover (Deloitte, 2022).

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