The Journey to Employee Wellbeing in the Bus Sector: Planning your Route
Originally posted on Linkedin by Scott Read.
When it comes to employee wellbeing, it’s always important to look to the future
It’s easy to understand what the demographics of your workforce will look like in 2020, because staff retention is currently high and retirement ages are being extended for many. Not only will your employees be older, they will likely be working more hours than they do now, as productivity continues to become a key focus.
Much of the work in the passenger transport sector already involves very early or late shifts, being isolated from co-workers, and often requires employees to remain sedentary for prolonged periods of time. It is important that employers understand the risks of this lifestyle and put their employees’ wellbeing firmly in the spotlight.
The negative impact of work that involves irregular shift patterns can have on overall employee wellbeing has been well documented. But it is also important that wellbeing initiatives consider the employees’ working life, private life, and the instances where the two cross-over.
The conditions in which employees work every day are bound to influence their general health. For example, sedentary work, being surrounded by members of the public and infrequent access to restrooms, can increase the likelihood of contracting an illness; while a lack of appropriate food storage and the changing shift patterns reduce the likelihood of making healthy food and fitness choices.
The Work Foundation’s fluctuating conditions, fluctuating support report published in January 2015 said that by 2030 around 40% of the UK’s working age population will have at least one chronic and work-limiting health condition. Therefore, it is important that by 2020, employers have developed a strategy to support these employees to stay ahead of this crisis, so why not start today?
There are three key areas that a wellbeing strategy should contain to be effective in the bus industry:
Stress and anxiety remains the number one reason why employees are absent from work and is particularly prevalent in the bus sector. As employees becomes older, employers need to ensure they have robust support in place, and a culture of openness when tackling such issues.
When bus drivers were surveyed on their main stressors and triggers for mental health conditions, some of the most common responses were health and home-related concerns, problems intrinsic to the job, lack of involvement and support during the organisational changes occurring, and fears regarding physical assault.
Bus drivers have a much higher risk of developing heart disease and other health related issues due to their working conditions. Obesity is also another key issue in the bus sector, with one in three bus drivers likely to suffer from obesity due, in part, to the limited opportunities for physical activity within the job role.
Rising obesity levels also play a role in the prevalence of muscular skeletal disorders (MSD) and contribute to increased likelihood of chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Obesity can also affect bus driver’s mental health by leading to decreased self-esteem. This can also be an important factor in absence management. Public Health England says that by 2034, 70% of the UK population is expected to be overweight or obese.
Employees in the transport sector are often working in isolation from their colleagues and managers. Technology is key when it comes to connecting workers out on the road with the company back at HQ. Implementing a new and effective wellbeing strategy would be impossible without embracing the technological advances that allow instant contact with employees anytime, anywhere.
New developments have also created the opportunity for employees to deal with their health and wellbeing issues using their smartphone. Services such as employee assistance programme (EAP) helplines and video doctors have created a new and innovative way to keep wellbeing at the heart of a companies’ wellbeing strategy.
Change and managing the bottom line is something that most employers are readily able to handle, but with an ageing, diverse, mobile and digitally savvy workforce, HR and finance teams need to think about the wider challenges such as employee wellbeing. The returns on investment for health and wellbeing programmes are huge for those who think about the future, embrace technology and choose strategic partnerships to enhance their employer brand.
I’m here to talk to, to guide and advise you on what works and what doesn’t. No obligation and no agenda other than to drive continued improvement in the bus industry, and to reward the hard-working employees within it. Feel free to get in touch.