Psychological impact of COVID-19 on drivers


The rise of COVID-19 and the consequent measures taken to stop the spread have resulted in completely different working conditions for many South Africans. This massive change in social and working conditions has resulted in isolation, increased difficulty in remaining positive and has even impacted psychological well-being.


The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says amongst fleet drivers this can be difficult to manage in this part of your workforce. “Drivers are not typically based behind a computer so if a driver is working less hours, only a small portion of their time can be spent completing admin and the rest of the time, the individual must remain constructive during these difficult times by themselves,” says Herbert.


MasterDrive spoke to Industrial Psychologist, Helena Nel, from Imaginate People Advisory about how to best manage these changed working conditions. “Employers should be mindful of the emotional cycle that employees experience with change. The first step is acknowledging employees are likely still coming to terms with COVID-19 as the new normal and their current situation as a result. Consequently, a safe place for workforces to express their feelings is needed.


“Often, employees and the consequent social interaction can help others through this process when such a space is created. This human element is essential in their day-to-day life. If you do create virtual support structures within your organisation, be mindful of the resources and accessibility of employees to these platforms. Never allow employees to feel like they have been thrown to the curb, rather create a platform that everyone can access.”


Extra time should also be managed constructively. “Employers can update and diversify employees’ skillset in a cost-effective and beneficial way to both. Consider time as a resource that is more abundant now and use it on opportunities there may not have been time for previously. Build skills and careers that are relevant in the digital economy.”


Employers and managers need to be cognisant of those struggling with the changes more than the average person. “Each employee has different challenges to manage and not everyone has access to physical or psychological resources or support structures.  A supportive, human connection and a relationship based on trust with a leader within the organisation is important. Build this relationship by asking about home lives and making a safe place where they can answer freely.”


Ultimately, all organisations need to adapt to the new stress dynamic at work. “Start by changing something small such as the tone of emails, frequently checking in or asking how everyone is feeling during a meeting. For cases beyond the ability of management to deal with, consider getting help from psychologists or coaches to ensure they safely cope with the change.


“If your company cannot afford counselling there are non-profit organisations. Alternatively, enlist a professional to facilitate group sessions or arrange basic coaching training for managers to equip them to ask the right questions and facilitate difficult conversations.”


For many, the loss of an old way of life is similar to the grieving process. “Be aware of the unique circumstances of employees at this time. For many, when they leave their families to come to work, they are leaving a place of stress and work needs to be a supportive environment. Make it clear that it is okay to not be 100% and all they need to do is ask for help,” says Nel.


MasterDrive can provide assistance with supporting your drivers with stimulation in many ways. “Whether it is through our Toolbox Talks or virtual training sessions, there are many ways to upskill your drivers and ensure they retain their sense of purpose,” says Herbert.


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