There are often many reasons why people get into work late. But what happens when this becomes a daily occurrence – as is the case currently where there are widescale issues with the trains all over the country?

Many of us have been suffering from the current rail chaos – trains cancelled, platforms overcrowded and high levels of uncertainty about when and how long it will take to get to work, and then again at the end of the day when trying to get home. I use public transport as much as possible – I have always found travelling by train to be an opportunity to people watch as well as a reliable way to get to my destination. Travelling by train also gives me time to mentally prepare for the day ahead. I don’t have to use public transport every day (thankfully at the moment!) but I have been caught up in the train chaos recently a number of times when delivering a series of 2-day Mental Health training programmes.

It’s hard to believe just how bad the current service is if you haven’t had the joy of experiencing it! Your train can just magically disappear as you wait and gaze at the screen, you can be sitting in a train that is meant to be leaving imminently but has suddenly no suitably trained driver or you may have to take a replacement bus that will take 2 hours instead of 30 minutes. The fear that you won’t be able to get on the train when it arrives because there just isn’t enough room! More fear when you are caught up with the masses of people either trying to get on the train or off it. If you do manage to squeeze onto the train, being jostled trying to find something to hold onto, or to position yourself so you don’t have your face in someone’s armpit or are being hit in the head with someone’s rucksack! This is a daily experience for many commuters in particular areas.

So what is the impact of the train chaos on those who need to then do a day’s work?

Stress is defined as “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other demands placed upon them” (Health and Safety Executive). When we talk about workplace stress we usually refer to issues that are work related – like work load or manager support. But the train chaos is a workplace issue that is impacting on people’s physical and mental health. Some of the issues people are experiencing are:

  • Lack of control about when and how they will get to work
  • Poor communication from the train companies who do not give commuters the opportunity to plan in advance at any degree
  • Fear about being able to pick up from nursery on time
  • Panic attacks, hyperventilating and claustrophobia from the overwhelming number of people surrounding you and the fear of being crushed (get help with this!)
  • Fear about how their boss will react – when this happens yet again – and again
  • Chest pain – a response to the pressure of being hemmed in and being late again (this can be life threatening so don’t ignore it (get help with this!)
  • Exhaustion from leaving earlier and earlier and getting home later and later
  • Burn out from working evenings and weekends in trying to make up the hours and work missed
  • Financial issues when paid only for the hours actually working, or from paying extra childcare or getting extra forms of transport
  • Conflict with people at work who resent picking up your work
  • Relationship difficulties caused by not being around for partners and children

Yes – in anyone’s book this definitely meets the definition of stress!

The worse one however has got to be those managers who threaten their employees with dismissal because of the trains and give them written warnings. This has got to be the most unsupportive management strategy possible! Is this how to motivate and encourage loyalty? What about all those hours that most employees have done – way over their contracted hours? What about some compassion here? Or using some creativity to come up with another solution – working remotely for example?

Whatever you do it is crucial to look after your own health as best you can. If you are becoming unwell – physically or mentally, get some help. Recognise that this is a good time to practice deep breathing or mindfulness. To accept what you can’t control and control what you can. And to laugh at the situation so many are experiencing – you are not alone!

Get through the train chaos and then when you are able to – get yourself another job with an employer who supports his or her people and who recognises that loyalty goes both ways!

Adelle Shaw-Flach is the Director of The Sweet Potato Consultancy.

I believe strongly that wellbeing and mental health are central to creating successful workplaces. By working strategically with forward thinking leaders the people, skills and financial wastage can be reduced, creating workplace cultures where both people and organisations thrive.






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