A new survey of British workers suggests the UK’s overtime culture is putting drivers at risk at the wheel, owing to poor sleep, pressure to be reachable, stress and distraction.
The research by business insurer NFU Mutual found that more than a third of people who work full or part-time in the UK are expected to work outside of their contracted hours (35%).
It also found that 30% are expected to respond to calls and emails out of hours, and 46% slog away late into the night.
Nearly one in ten who also drive for work have actually fallen asleep or nearly fallen asleep at the wheel as a direct result of work pressure (8%), while a quarter have driven tired due to out-of-hours work demands.
Some even combine the two and work while driving – 16% admitted to being on a work call or conference call while driving and one in twenty people (5%) have actually responded to work emails while at the wheel.
More than a quarter of all UK road traffic incidents involve someone who is driving as part of their work, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Recent figures from Eurostat, the EU’s statistics arm, also showed Britons work more hours than anyone else in Europe – an average of 42 hours a week.
Rebecca Richards, Business Insurance Specialist at insurer NFU Mutual, said: “Brits work longer hours than any other European country. If businesses focus on increasing productivity and reducing costs, staff could feel the need to put extra hours in to climb the ladder or even keep their job. This can cause fatigue which is one of the biggest killers on UK roads.”
“In a digital world, bosses should be aware that employees might also feel pressure to respond immediately – it’s alarming that some people even respond to emails while driving. Motorists should always follow the law and park up in a safe, legal place if making a call, using hands-free technology. Companies can help look after their staff on the road by making sure their culture is distraction-free, excusing them from calls if they are travelling.”
In the research by NFU Mutual, only 38% of respondents agreed that their employer has a suitable culture to help workers drive safely.
Advice for employers to improve culture and driver safety from NFU Mutual:
1. If you phone one of your team and hear they are on the road, ask them to call back when they’ve arrived at their destination and quickly end the call.
2. Review your schedule of meetings requiring field teams to travel: are they all necessary? Can technology or alternative communication methods help?
3. Take time to review the expectations on your team, and the impact they may be having on their time and wellbeing in a holistic sense.