by Naomi Frauenfelder, Chief Executive Officer, Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds
The global pandemic has unquestionably placed immense pressure on the supply chain sector, and no more so than on the people working on the frontline.
While many Australians were asked to stay at home to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19, truck drivers and warehouse and distribution centre staff across the country put themselves at risk to keep the sector moving, and ensure our communities have continued to have access to essential supplies.
Businesses such as Australia Post saw record volumes of parcels through their delivery networks, forcing significant change across the business in order to meet demands.
This was the reality for many organisations throughout 2020 to 2021, with no end in sight. Panic buying, an eCommerce boom and a growing sense of demand from the general public led to overwhelming levels of strain on the sector and its people.
These unprecedented factors have been compounded by ongoing border closures, changing COVID-19 situations and testing requirements across different states, and fear of contracting the virus.
This has led to feelings of uncertainty and stress, and for many, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. As we find ourselves nearing the end of 2021, the sector faces a unique set of challenges as a result of the pandemic for over 18 months.
While the ability of the industry and people within it to adapt and change has been outstanding, we need to appreciate the toll that it has taken on the many people and businesses impacted.
The risk factors that impact mental health
For the industry to move forward, we need to better equip our leaders, managers, staff and the wider workforce with tools, resources and training to build resilience and create an industry where people are better able to cope with challenges as they arise.
At Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds (HHTS), our role is to help coordinate and facilitate the three-year National Mental Health and Wellbeing Roadmap (the Roadmap) strategy.
The Roadmap provides an integrated approach for leaders and managers to support and protect employees. Traditionally, mental health in the workplace has been centred on raising awareness and providing support.
Although this is critically important, the Roadmap also places an emphasis on prevention, including leadership capability, smarter work design and workplace culture.
By doing more upstream, we may be able to help people before they become mentally unwell. Over time, as HHTS embeds an understanding of the Roadmap, we, as an entire industry, can build better work cultures that champion support and recovery, with a focus on increasing the resilience of the entire workforce.
In the future, we hope that if a person is struggling in work or in their personal life, their workmates will be able to support them with the right tools and strategies.
The Roadmap itself sets out the risk factors that directly impact the mental health and wellbeing of those in the sector:
♦ Trauma and critical incidents
♦ Long hours, shift work and fatigue
♦ High job demand
♦ Isolation and social disconnection
♦ Gambling addiction and excessive behaviour
♦ Third-party workforce arrangements
♦ Mental health stigma
Unfortunately, the added pressure that has been placed on the workforce during the pandemic has only exacerbated the likelihood of people in the industry experiencing these risk factors and reinforces the importance of preventative measures.
Prevention, protection and support
The Roadmap suggests that a psychologically safe and thriving workplace promotes mental health and wellbeing. It supports those who already experience positive mental health and contributes to stopping or lessening movement along the mental health continuum.
Building a workplace that is psychologically safe and thriving requires a systemic and integrated approach to supporting mental health, seeking to create an environment where the mental health and wellbeing of all workers is prioritised.
In doing so, businesses must move beyond awareness and look to adopt the Framework that sits within the Roadmap – prevention, protection and support. This Framework is built around the components of preventing harm, intervening early and supporting recovery.
Applying this evidenced-based approach along with the seven workplace strategies within the Roadmap will support businesses at all levels of the sector in making progress toward creating, not only psychologically safe and thriving working environments, but a happier and healthier industry as a whole.
Over the next three years organisations across the road transport, warehousing and logistics industries will move through different stages of workplace psychological safety.
The intention of the Roadmap is to promote improvement, no matter which level an organisation is currently at, supporting workplaces from foundational maturity to best practice, and everywhere in between.
The focus is on continuous improvement and helping organisations that are just starting out know where to begin. By 2024, three years on from the launch of the Roadmap, we hope that the mental health and wellbeing landscape of the supply-chain sector looks markedly different to what it does today.
We aspire to have achieved industry-wide adoption and support of the Framework within the Roadmap, making our sector a leader when it comes to mentally healthy workplaces. We hope that mental health is as everyday as safety, and that stigma relating to mental health is a thing of the past.
Finally, we hope to see a positive change against key risk factors and to have positioned our industry with the tools and resources it needs to address challenges as they may arise in the future.