Time for a temperature check on mental health

By: Angela Splinter

Trucking HR Canada recently conducted an informal “temperature check” survey of employers and employees about the topic of mental health in the workplace.

While the intent was to gather information over our social media channels for a federal consultation on the topic, what we heard from respondents was alarming.

Considering the pressure the pandemic has brought to bear, it was no surprise to hear that the number of workers concerned about their psychological health is rising. What’s astonishing is how pervasive COVID-19-related mental health issues are among the entire workforce, leaving a swath of stressed-out people – from the driver’s seat to the shop, to the office.

The survey results and the discussions we’ve had since have prompted us to take a close look at how stress, isolation, family matters, financial pressure, and other factors affect the mental health and safety of people in trucking and logistics.

COVID-19 looks like it’ll be with us for a while, and we want to help employers develop strategies to help their employees cope with life at work and home and feel better about themselves and their work.

Here’s what we’re learning.

There is a stigma around mental health

By far, survey respondents said COVID-19 is the main reason for observed decreases in their overall wellbeing and mental health in the workplace. Other factors cited (in order) are workplace stress; poor work-life balance; organizational restructuring; increased workload; and financial stress.

A large number of respondents acknowledged that employees are more aware of their general state of mental health and feel more comfortable discussing it at work. However, respondents also indicated that stigma surrounding mental health is something that many contend with, meaning that there may still be reluctance to report a mental health issue at work. One person said the stigma around mental health includes a fear of experiencing employment repercussions (e.g., losing their license).

This suggests that an effective intervention to reduce stigma in the trucking and logistics industry would also need to involve a dialogue among many different actors: employer organizations, employee organizations, health and safety bodies, insurance providers, and others.

Everyone is affected, but the more vulnerable are affected most.

In trying to determine which individuals within the workforce faced the greatest degree of COVID-19-related psychological distress, we found that occupational categories were the most frequently cited factor. Nevertheless, it was shown that certain issues can come into play to make individual circumstances particularly important to understanding the full picture.

For example, respondents who cited these factors tend to be affected the most:

  • Those with pre-existing mental health concerns
  • Those working from home with young children
  • Those working in close quarters

It’s also important to consider the experiences of different demographic groups. Notably, the mental health of women in the industry was highlighted as a concern, particularly the manner in which female employees were treated by clients and—at times, by those they work with. Also highlighted as a concern was the mental health of younger men (under 30 years of age) within the industry.

For an industry looking to increase the participation of women and young people, these issues warrant further attention.

Help the helpers

Our survey results showed that employees in certain occupations have a higher risk or are more vulnerable to experiencing psychological injuries and illnesses.

Without a doubt, truck drivers demand special attention given their work conditions, with respondents citing familiar themes of isolation/solitude, unhealthy diets, and low physical activity. COVID-19-related factors included daily stress stemming from poor access to facilities such as washrooms, or access to good options for nutrition.

However, our survey highlighted other occupations of concern, notably (in order):

  • Dispatchers
  • HR staff
  • Office administration staff

It’s significant that the reported rate of mental health effects on HR staff was the closest to the prevalence rate of drivers. COVID-19 has exacerbated negative outcomes for dispatchers, who have had to bear the brunt of changes in routes and driver availability.

The fact that we look to HR managers, dispatchers, administrators, and others to support our drivers is important to remember as you develop plans to address mental health. The need to recognize and manage mental health across all occupations has perhaps been underestimated in the past.

As we brace for a longer recovery period from the pandemic, employers may want to consider a temperature check of their own workforces’ mental health.

Post-pandemic profitability will depend on it.

New Anti-Harassment and Violence Obligations for Federally Regulated Fleets

New Anti-Harassment and Violence Obligations for Federally Regulated Fleets

July 7, 2020 by Marisha Tardif

 

Many fleets in our employer community have been following developments surrounding Bill C-65 – a piece of federal legislation that amends the Canada Labour Code by introducing new guidelines on how harassment and violence can be prevented in the workplace, and how to address it if and when it occurs. While Bill C-65 received Royal Assent in 2018, specifics surrounding employer obligations and compliance timelines remained to be confirmed. But as per recent updates, there is now new information surrounding detailed requirements that federally regulated employers will have to meet.

On June 24, 2020, the federal government published the Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations. The new framework will apply to the federally regulated private sector as of January 1st, 2021. Transportation companies that provide international and interprovincial services are regulated by the federal government and are therefore subject to these updates.

New rules will thus soon come into effect that will increase employers’ responsibilities in matters of workplace health and safety. The new Regulations set a framework of obligations centered on three elements: the prevention of workplace harassment and violence, the delivery of a timely and effective response to incidents, and the provision of support for affected employees. Based on these three pillars, the new Regulations bring changes in the following main areas:

  • Workplace harassment and violence prevention policy
    • Employers will be required to make available a workplace harassment and violence prevention policy that aligns with new Regulatory requirements.
  • Workplace assessments
    • Employers will have to conduct assessments that identify risks of harassment and violence in the workplace and implement preventative measures to protect the workplace from these risks.
  • Emergency procedures
    • Employers will be required to develop emergency procedures to be followed in situations where an occurrence of harassment and violence poses and immediate danger to the health and safety of an employee(s).
  • Training
    • Employers will be required to identify and develop harassment and violence training and ensure it is delivered to all members of the organization, including to employers themselves but also to employees, and to the designated recipient of harassment and violence complaints in the workplace. Training will need to align to specific guidelines proposed under the Regulations, and will be delivered once every three years, including in the onboarding of new employees.
  • Support measures
    • Employers will be required to make information available regarding support services that employees may access should they experience an incident of workplace harassment and violence.
  • Resolution process
    • Employers will be required to respond to every notification of an occurrence of harassment and violence in their workplace, but also to structure their response around a more detailed web of specific requirements (including prescribed timelines, processes, and procedures).
  • Records and reports
    • Employers will be required to keep records relating to harassment and violence in their workplace. They will also be required to submit annual reports to the Minister, as well as report on any fatalities that occur as a result of workplace harassment and violence.

It is clear from the above that the new Regulations will require major adjustments to policies, programs, and processes for many employers. Given new requirements, it is important for both employers and employees to understand the nature of these changes and how it will impact them and their workplace.

Trucking HR Canada is committed to providing trucking sector-specific resources to support the needs of the industry in adapting to these new changes. Central amongst these tools will be a bilingual suite of online and in-person training modules for employers, employees, and designated recipients of workplace harassment and violence complaints. Pamphlets that clarify employer and employee rights and obligations will also be made available, in addition to other forthcoming resources centered on best practices in workplace anti-harassment and violence. These supports will be made available in time for the January 2021 entry into force of the Regulations – follow our website and social media channels to find out more.

 

Survey Says: HR Managers Take Varied Approach to COVID-19

Survey Says: HR Managers Take Varied Approach to COVID-19

June 16, 2020 by Angela Splinter

Every employer across the country is feeling the impact of COVID-19 in its own unique way. But for HR professionals at truck fleets and logistics companies, they all have one challenge in common: making sure workers and especially truck drivers feel safe and secure in their jobs.

Trucking HR recently surveyed carriers, 3PLs, and freight brokers about the measures they have taken since the pandemic came to Canada and what they plan to do in the next three to six months. Let’s take a look:

Layoffs

Seventy-six percent of the employers we surveyed said they have laid off workers due to COVID-19, with 83% of those layoffs categorized as temporary. Layoffs of truck drivers were more prevalent in the short-haul segment and among employed drivers than contractors or owner-operators.

Dispatchers and mechanics were also affected, with 10% of employees laid off in each occupation.

Notably, employers that have already laid off workers said they are more likely to continue doing so over the next three to six months.

Employee-initiated departures

According to our survey, the most common reasons for leaves of absence and other types of employee-initiated departures were self-quarantine; the employee or a member of the household is at a high risk of contracting COVID-19; and family caregiving. Each reason was evenly cited among employers.

The combination of layoffs and employee-initiated departures reduced total truck driver employment across our sample by 11.4%.

Of particular concern to HR professionals is whether these employees have left temporarily or if we have lost them for good.

Reduced compensation

Not surprisingly, many employers have cut worker pay due to declining revenue. Roughly one in four employers in our survey have frozen salaries or wages for truck drivers. This measure was more common among companies transporting non-essential goods (31%) than those transporting essential items (15%).

Pay increases have been rare—13% of survey respondents said they are paying workers a premium due to COVID-19. Others are offering non-monetary rewards including flextime, child-care, and time off.

Another 15% of employers said they have provided truck drivers with monetary rewards such as gift cards.

Improving the image

The million-dollar question for our industry is this: has COVID-19 changed the stigma around working in the trucking and logistics sector?

The views are mixed.

On one hand, employers are divided about whether COVID-19 has made the job of truck driving more or less appealing.

While 35% of employers expect truck driving to be more attractive to prospective employees relative to pre-COVID, 23% believe the job will be less attractive, citing the attention brought to dismal working conditions and wages.

On the other hand, 29% of employers believe that COVID-19 has made trucking and logistics somewhat or much more attractive to other types of prospective employees (excluding truck drivers). This compares to only 4% who believe the attractiveness of the sector has declined for these potential employees.

Challenges ahead

It is interesting to compare these finding to another Trucking HR Canada study done in partnership with Abacus data where 54% of Canadians overall had a positive impression of trucking companies.

The Abacus study also showed that 85% of Canadians think a strong trucking sector is necessary for the economy to be healthy.

Yet barriers remain.

Despite the recognition brought to truck drivers for their essential role in keeping supply chains moving, people are still not rushing to join the industry. Just 35% of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 35 said they would consider a job in trucking and logistics.

And when we look at the huge government relief programs available, namely the Canadian emergency wage subsidy (CEWS), our survey of employers showed that among employers that have not applied for CEWS, the vast majority (85%) have not experienced the eligible revenue reduction to qualify for the subsidy.

At a time when trucking and logistics companies are working hard to survive, they are also essential to the survival of their customers. We cannot lose sight of the fact that our industry needs a level playing field when it comes to accessing government programs and initiatives for employees.

We have seen what supply chains look like when Canada is in the middle of a health crisis. We need a financially strong and resilient transportation industry so HR professionals can keep their truck drivers safe and prepared for the challenges ahead.

 

Gearing Up for Workplace Mental Health

Trucking Talks Mental Health – Practical Resources, Tools and Services

Trucking Talks Mental Health – Duty to Accommodate and Duty to Inquire

Trucking Talks Mental Health – Myths and Misconceptions About Mental Health

Trucking Talks Mental Health – Walking the Walk

Trucking Talks Mental Health – Shifting the Workplace Culture

Modernizing Workplace Wellness

April 16, 2019 by Angela Splinter

 

“Modernizing your workforce starts with modernizing your HR approach.”

In today’s labour market, successful truck fleets and logistics companies know that staying abreast of the issues will help them stay ahead of the competition. Follow our “Modernizing Your HR Approach” blog series as we navigate emerging trends and share tips for finding, hiring, and retaining the talent you need.

There is a growing focus on employee health and wellness, and rightfully so. Putting wellness programs in place not only demonstrates that you care about your employees, it is shown to have direct impacts on employee productivity; reduced absenteesism, and overall job satisfaction.

Today, employers with comprehensive and modern wellness approaches are using them as part of their attraction and recruitment efforts. Let’s take a look at how you can make sure your health and wellness approach keeps you competitive in todays marketplace:

Tailored approaches

When it comes to workplace wellness, one size does not fit all. All employees have unique needs and priorities. And, while there is a lot of research pointing to the millennials desire for more flexibility, current research shows that in fact, employees from all generations value more flexibility, convenience and control over their benefits. There is also growing interest in non-conventional health services.

When is the last time you took a close look at your health and benefits plan? When is the last time you asked your employees what they value most about it?

There are options out there to help you meet the diverse and unique needs of your employees. Health spending accounts and wellness accounts are two examples that offer this type of flexibility. They give employees more choice and increased involvement in their benefits, and give employers financial flexibility too by allowing you to determine set spending amounts.

Financial health

With an increasing number of workers in our industry approaching retirement, assistance in educating and informing your employees about their financial wellness is an important consideration. The stress caused by financial worries and concerns should not be under-estimated.

Either through an employee assistance program, or other service providers – there are ways to confidentially address the financial concerns of your employees, through money management support, education, and debt counselling and retirement planning.

Nutrition

Good nutrition is a known factor in the health and wellbeing of your employees. It helps to maintain energy levels, contributes to a healthy body weight, and assists in the prevention and management of chronic disease

Many employers offer stocked driver lounges, host summer BBQ events, or provide staff lunches for special occasions. These are all opportunities for employers to promote healthy eating by offering healthy choices and options. If a healthy workplace culture is something you want to promote, then do so.

Mental health

In any given week, 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work due to a mental health issue. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health conditions are increasingly responsible for disability claims and account for more than $6 billion in lost productivity due to absenteeism and “presenteeism.” In trucking, a worker who is on the job but not mentally present also poses a safety risk.

Making sure that employees are not chronically overworked, having policies that effectively address bullying or harassment, and ensuring that staff are equipped and trained to identify mental health issues early are important considerations.

Modern workplaces are ensuring that mental health is addressed each and every day.

Make workplace wellness an integral component of your overall HR approach. Healthy and productive employees mean a healthy and productive business.