Published on July 27, 2022

Work/Life Balance and HR Strategies: How they Affect your Drivers and Provide a Better Work Experience Program

By Rafi Syed - CarriersEdge

The Work/Life and HR sections of the Best Fleets To Drive For® questionnaire measure how companies support their drivers/contractors when they're not driving, in addition to how they build, and bring new drivers into their culture.

With each passing year, the Best Fleets team takes note of common areas of change among fleets. 2022 was no different, with an increased focus on new or improved Work/Life and HR strategies that directly relate to higher Best Fleets To Drive For® scores.

In-Person and Virtual Social Events

To combat driver isolation and loneliness, social events are the go-to solution for most carriers, often hosted during summer and driver appreciation week.

Placing a score against social events has been part of the program for a long time, yet the team had to approach scoring differently with the onset of Covid. Even with social events now getting back to normal levels, carriers are continuing to implement creative ideas that increase inclusivity, taking in-person limitations into consideration.

“Virtual town halls and happy hours are becoming popular, enabling participation for long-haul drivers who can't make it to the terminal,” says Mark Murrell, Co-creator of the Best Fleets to Drive For® program.

Wellness Checks, Family Connection, and Buddy Programs

More than social events, drivers need personal connection while on the road to reduce the gap of not seeing family and co-workers for extended periods of time. The Best Fleets team has seen an upswing in wellness calls from management, executives, and support staff, asking drivers how they are - which makes a difference. “Give people a call, ask about their day and find out how they're doing,” says Jane Jazrawy, Co-creator of the Best Fleets to Drive For® program. “For someone feeling isolated on the road, a simple check-in does wonders.”

Quite often drivers miss out on many personal moments in their family lives due to the length of time spent away from home. Enabling an easier connection with family can dramatically improve a driver's state-of-mind - reducing anxiety and the feeling of isolation. Supporting that effort, several fleets provide tablets in the trucks with data plans allowing for driver personal use.

Buddy programs are also on the rise and helpful for both new and experienced drivers. More times than not, the buddy system pairs people who are not directly connected to each other's roles. Buddy programs encourage employees to connect with and learn from each other, supplementing orientation and training with peer education.

Driver Surveys, Committees, and Advisory Boards

Why beat around the bush when you can go right to the source? 70% of finalists in the 2022 edition survey their drivers annually, making surveys a baseline practice to find out what programs are working for drivers, and which ones aren't. Apart from gaining valuable feedback, surveys reflect the current company culture and climate. Knowing what drivers need and learning from on and off-road insights can highlight key issues in day-to-day activities in addition to revealing what's working well.

Continuing the increased dialogue with drivers, committees and advisory boards have become more prominent amongst fleets. Committees play an advisory role, recognizing workplace risks and creating awareness for health and safety issues to make recommendations on behalf of drivers. Some committees meet six or eight times per year, while others connect monthly, staying in touch with committee members virtually throughout the year.

Committees and advisory boards are making use of social media and other tools to supplement in-person meetings and phone calls. “There are flexible options to encourage more contribution from people who cannot participate in person,” Jazrawy says. “Virtual committees have given drivers more input on issues that directly affect their work/life balance.”

Mental Health and Wellness

Historically, mental health initiatives have been comprised of military peer support programs and service animal/pet policies. Depression, anxiety, and self-harm have been on the rise, and have only recently become topics of conversation. As a result, initiatives are changing to better support drivers and educate teams on mental health and its impact on the driver and road safety.

From experiencing loneliness, collisions, and fatalities, to stressful situations with shippers and consigners, drivers routinely face challenges on the road that impact their mental health. Since 2020, fleets have increased their focus on mental wellness, building on existing initiatives and rethinking what it means to offer support. Companies that are checking in with their employees are staying ahead of probable issues and crises. Drivers are noticing these efforts, which is reflected in high driver satisfaction scores.

Improving Work/Life Balance and HR strategies does not have to be a huge undertaking. Some of the smallest gestures mean a lot to drivers, such as outbound call programs, buddy programs, social events, and the implementation of employee feedback channels.

Dealing with stress, burnout, and safety when the truck isn't moving is critical to a driver's work/life balance and positive work experience. Recognizing that, is half the battle. Putting the plans into place to address these issues is the second part that makes a big difference in a fleet's overall score.