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Prioritising mental health in the logistics workplace

In a male-dominated industry such as the logistics sector, the topic of mental health remains something of a taboo subject. But with the Priory’s survey citing work as the biggest cause of mental health, isn’t it time the industry took action?

According to the charity, men’s mental health is a significant problem, with around 1 in 8 experiencing a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Men aged 40-49 record the highest suicide rates in the UK and are less likely to access psychological therapies than women – only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men. Although 77% of men polled claim to have suffered mental health problems, 40% of men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health. And given these are only the reported stats, it likely that this is the tip of the iceberg.

Pressurised work environment

If ever there was a time that employees in our sector – of all genders – were under increased pressure and therefore vulnerable to compromising their mental health, it is now.

Although recognised as key workers during the pandemic, companies involved in the transfer of essential goods including food and drink were frequently not acknowledged during the various lockdowns. Staff continued to work round the clock to maintain supplies, frequently putting themselves and their families at risk. This stood in sharp contrast to the many people who were furloughed, some of whom enjoyed a relatively relaxing summer.

In addition to this, the mounting problems associated with Brexit and the clear impact on the efficient movement of food and drink in particular, made for an intensely pressurised work environment for employees. This was hindered by the constant changes in government guidelines and the subsequent confusion and ultimately prolonged delays at both air and seaports.

Add to this the intense stress caused by such delays to the HGV driver community, especially those delivering perishable goods – at a time when drivers were in short supply – and it’s fair to say that staff are working in a highly charged environment. 

Tackling mental health in the logistics sector

One company taking positive action to address mental wellbeing is PML, the global provider of world-class logistics and supply chain solutions. Ten members of staff at PML recently put themselves forward to attend a course run by MHFA*(Mental Health First Aid), England. The course enabled delegates to access guidance on Mental Health First Aid and was designed to equip line managers with a step-by-step framework to help create a healthier workplace.

HR Manager at PML, Imrana Giannotto, said: “The course has proved really beneficial by providing solid practical advice to help us spot the tell-tale signs that an employee’s mental health is being tested – and most importantly, to put in place practices and procedures to avert a situation resulting in a fellow colleague suffering a genuine mental health condition.

"Noticing the little things like withdrawal from regular conversation, lack of cooperation, presenteeism, frequent complaints of being tired all the time, these can all point to a person not coping and needing support. One of the strengths of the company has always been its genuine commitment to staff welfare and we believe that our industry needs to be more open about the need to discuss mental wellbeing."

Best practice makes sense for the business

Protecting staff from mental illness makes sense both morally and commercially. Staff retention is an excellent marker for a happy workforce, and companies that fail to wise up to the growing awareness of mental and physical wellbeing will be adversely affected. Losing staff is costly: it takes time and extensive training to replace valuable employees, and can create a climate of unrest within the team. Similarly, long-term and frequent absenteeism is also expensive and disruptive.

Giannotto continues: “We should all be trying harder to create a pleasant and stimulating environment conducive to encouraging a sense of wellbeing. Equally, as employers, we also have a responsibility to be available to staff to discuss any problems which might relate to outside of their jobs. Being able to demonstrate genuine concern for an individual should not extend exclusively to when they are in the workplace.” 

As the Time To Change social movement first decreed in 2007, It’s time to change the way people think and act about mental health problems. Let’s make sure that extends to the logistics sector. 


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