Introduction from Franchise Owner, Tom Ingram:
Never before have there been so many pressures placed upon the day to day working of driving instructors. The Covid-19 pandemic has created the need for new ways to conduct our business safely. The resulting demand for driving tests due to the lockdowns is quite exceptional. Our regulator (DVSA) is placing new demands on our work practices. Pupils and their funders have never been as keen to learn to drive as efficiently as possible. All of this creates an excellent opportunity for my franchise. Still, I am acutely aware from my own family experiences of the potential for increased risk factors to wellbeing and mental health.
By launching this charter, I am leading the driving training industry and calling for it to join me and commit to ensuring all that can be done to protect the wellbeing and mental health of the professionals working within it. My primary objective, however, is with the wellbeing of the personnel in the BIG TOM franchise. It is vitally important to me that the culture within this franchise demonstrates our determination to protect the franchisees and their customers.
What is meant by ‘wellbeing’?
The DfE give the following: A state of complete physical and mental health that is characterised by high-quality social relationships.
It creates a sense of checking our physical and mental health beyond merely the absence of disease or illness.
The responsibility for wellbeing and mental health must be shared across everyone that affects our working lives, from policymakers here at BIG TOM, to our admin support, through to our franchisees and their customers, including our regulator. It is recognised that there will inevitably be critical factors outside of our work that goes beyond the scope of this charter.
Recognising that the regulator (DVSA) shapes the policy environment for much of the structure of our work, there is still much that can be done with our policies in this franchise to constructively contribute to the good wellbeing of our franchisees.
The threats to wellbeing in the driving training industry are many and varied. As we regularly ask those we interact with: “How are you?” we include our physical and mental health considerations to improve our relationships.
The environment that we work in is unusual as it necessitates the continual assessment of risk to us, our clients, examiners and the public from factors that sometimes change dramatically in seconds. That is some responsibility to take on board and, as such, requires careful managing of our emotional state. The nature of our work has its unique challenges involving a lack of physical exercise. Yet, our mental wellbeing can also be compromised when we might find our attitudes to our purpose in conflict with our clients. The quality of relationships within the franchise and outside is essential for maintaining a sense of support, respect and ‘working together. Franchisees must be aware of factors that might affect their sense of security, e.g. emotional (bullying, harassment) or of financial integrity or discriminatory bias (equality, diversity).
The responsibility for our wellbeing is shared between us and is a long-term, constant goal that professional attitudes and effective systems will enhance. Although wellbeing is often thought of as subjective, involving many factors that can be interrelated, it is possible to measure and monitor it. A caring, considerate culture within this franchise is not nurtured by creating lengthy documents, policy and procedures. It is positive action that tackles mental health stigma. It is in what we do and how we do it, rather than what some document details. By doing, and being seen to be doing, by holding ourselves to account for the measures we have in place.
The ‘way we do things’ means a collective responsibility for clear communication, flexible working, reducing unnecessary workload with more innovative work practices. And it will be the effectiveness of how we review our actions that ensures continuous improvement. As in all walks of life, it is the seemingly small positive steps that need to be acknowledged to nourish a positive mind.