12th to 16th October 2020 is National Work-life Week and up and down the country both employers and employees will be reflecting on the importance of well-being at work and work-life balance.
There is a growing demand across the work industry in general for a better work-life balance for employees but, one of the hardest industries to achieve this in has to be the driving and logistics industry. It is especially difficult in the long haul sector when drivers can sometimes be out on the road for days and weeks on end.
Even as far back as 2014 we were seeing work-life balance becoming more and more important to younger generations emerging into the workplace. A 2014 survey1 conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting into 389 professional workers found that work-life balance was ranked as the most important factor for over 64% of the workers polled. Additionally, the survey revealed that most employees indicated that they would stay or leave their jobs to achieve better work-life balance. While this survey may have been conducted in the USA the results are a reflection of people in general, regardless of the geographical location as supported by a study conducted by Automatic Data Processing (ADP) that surveyed 2,000 workers across France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and the UK2.
Life as a truck driver out on the road can be tough, time away from family and the creature comforts of home can take its toll on a driver’s mental health and well-being. With growing demands for faster delivery times and the restrictions on driver hours, staying out on the road in order to fulfil deliveries is becoming more common. With this in mind we must ask the question, is work-life balance for truck drivers really possible?
Achieving work-life balance as a truck driver
Achieving work-life balance as a truck driver is absolutely possible, you just have to be intentional when you are choosing your employer, choosing your role and most importantly when you are working away from home. We have discussed truck driver well-being a number of times on this driving blog such as here in our tips for dealing with driver fatigue post and here in our Mental Health Awareness blog and here and here in our Wellness – Reducing the impact of problems faced by truck drivers.
Top 10 tips for work-life balance
The advice for achieving work-life balance is very similar to that for ensuring mental well-being:
- Be active in the online driving community and connect with others in a similar situation to you. Our Facebook community is a great place to start.
- Distract your mind and fill your down time with interesting things to do or learn.
- Expand your online social circle with forums and round table discussions.
- Stay connected and utilise video calling software to set up regular calls with family and friends at home.
- Feel close to home with some of your creature comforts, favourite jumpers, cosy blankets, drawings from the kids and family photographs can all adorn the inside of your cab.
- Set physical and mental goals so you are always working towards something positive whether you are out on the road or at home.
- Eat good food. Staying away doesn’t mean you have to just eat fast food, make sure you have access to your favourite foods and snacks wherever you are by preparing home cooked meals to take with you.
- Switch up the entertainment and read a good book, listen to an audiobook, get hooked on a podcast or binge watch Netflix. The things you like to do at home can often be taken out on the road with you and continued when you get back.
- Maximise your time off. You will find that you are often home for days at a time, sometimes entire weeks, so be sure to do something fun and adventurous in your downtime and when you are back at work you will feel like you really made the most of it.
- Build a bucket list of all of the things you want to do when you have time off and use your rest periods to do research, book tickets or make plans.
Best driving jobs for work-life balance
The best jobs for work-life balance are those that provide ample time at home, whether that is home every evening, every weekend or for longer periods of time. What is best for your own personal work-life balance might be different to that of someone else.
Those with young children may feel that being home every evening to eat a family meal and put the kids to bed is important, in which case a multi-drop delivery driver role could be the best option.
For those with weekend hobbies, a driving job that is made up of mainly Monday to Friday shifts; such as parcel delivery, shunting and short haul LGV driving, would provide the most time off at weekends.
If you like to travel and see new places, long haul driving could be a great choice. You will find that you have a few weeks on shift, followed by a week or so off that you can utilise to great effect if you are savvy with using last minute booking websites.
If your availability is variable and you need to be quite flexible, being an agency driver could provide the most work-life balance for you. You can choose temporary roles that to some degree work around your choice of availability and you can switch it up easily by moving between roles as your needs change.
Choose an employer who puts employee happiness first
Not all truck driving companies are created equally, some insist on long hours, stressful deadlines, long driving routes and inconsistent shifts while others insist on shorter hours, driver teams and week on week off rota’s, so it is important to find an employer who values the same things you do while promoting and ensuring the well-being of their drivers.
This post discusses the best HGV driver employers to work for and goes into detail about who the best employers are and how to know if they are a good fit for you.
Researching a potential employer before you apply is the best way to work out if they are a good fit for you. Visit their website and take a look at their values and policies. Also, utilise review sites such as Glassdoor.com to find out what opinions’ other employees (both past and present) have. It is not always easy to know which employers encourage a healthy work-life balance for their employees. A companies value statements and policies will give you an idea but, if you really want to know what it is like to drive for a particular company, ask for advice on driver forums such as the UK Professional Drivers Forum on TruckNetUK you will find many participants are vocal about their experiences and will be more than happy to give you a first-hand insight.
A really interesting thread featured on this same forum discusses the subject of work-life balance. This thread provides plenty of insight into why some drivers choose to work long haul and why some have chosen to stay closer to home. It also features some personal experiences and reflection stories that really reinforce that work-life balance and what it means is unique to each person - what works for you is what matters most.
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1 Eagle Hill Consulting [Internet] May 2014 https://www.eaglehillconsulting.com/opinion/importance-work-life-balance/
2 Automatic Data Processing (ADP) [Internet] November 2018 https://uk.adp.com/about-adp/press-centre/2018-11-06-uk-workers-struggling-to-maintain-work-life-balance.aspx