Australia’s Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds Foundation aims to build safer, healthier environments for truck drivers; distribution and warehouse (shed) workers; and other road transportation workers. The not-for-profit organization was founded by leading retail and logistics companies in 2020 in response to the serious mental health challenges facing workers in these fields—challenges caused by the unique stressors and isolation of their jobs.

One of the first Healthy Heads projects was to create a mobile app to help strengthen workers’ mental health and overall well-being. To turn that vision into reality, the organization engaged with VMware Tanzu Act—a VMware Tanzu Labs program that helps nonprofit organizations identify, design and deliver practical solutions for critical problems. With the VMware team, Healthy Heads rapidly produced a mobile app that provides valuable resources and exercises.

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Hear Healthy Heads CEO Naomi Frauenfelder discuss the stressors facing workers and the goals of developing the new mobile app with VMware.

Envisioning a new mobile app to support worker well-being

In transportation and logistics jobs, several factors can negatively affect the mental and physical health of workers, including long hours, workplace isolation, delivery schedule pressures, and the need for continuous alertness. The Healthy Heads leadership team wanted to find a way to use mobile technology to reduce the impact of those factors and strengthen the overall well-being of workers.

Healthy Heads chose to collaborate with the VMware Tanzu Act program to build a new mobile app designed specifically for transportation and logistics workers. Tanzu Act supports VMware’s 2030 Agenda—a decade-long environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitment and call to action to foster a more sustainable, equitable and secure world.

“There’s a number of great mental health apps out there, but being that this is an industry with a very male dominant workforce, there is a lot of stigma attached to mental health issues,” says Healthy Heads CEO Naomi Frauenfelder. “We needed something specific for the industry that has content curated for dealing with fatigue, isolation, disconnect and financial pressure. This is such an enormous and unique industry, and tailoring resources to them is quite effective. That’s why we wanted a specific app that we could provide for people working in the sector.”

Employing user-centric design to concentrate on worker needs

To begin the app development project, the Tanzu Act team worked to understand the unique needs of workers in transportation and logistics fields. The team conducted interviews with more than 20 truck drivers and shed workers to hear about their daily work experiences, discover how their work impacts their mental health, and learn how their work affects their home life.

The team was able to determine what resources, services and types of communication drivers and shed workers truly need. “We did run a process with a few different private developers, and VMware Tanzu came out on top, largely because of the approach, whole ethos, and focus on user testing,” says Frauenfelder. “It’s been an awesome experience, and we’re all really pleased with the Tanzu Act team.”

Building a tailored mobile app rapidly

By working with Tanzu Act, the small Healthy Heads team designed a mobile app with tailored content and support to address mental stresses, the sedentary nature of these jobs, and even the challenges of finding healthy food on the road. The app includes handbooks for frontline staff; well-being check-in features; stretching exercises and breathing techniques; and support services from Beyond Blue and Lifeline—two Australian mental health and crisis support service providers.

The new app augments the previously launched Healthy Heads website, providing an additional mode of reaching users. The Healthy Heads team knows that younger users are often most comfortable using a mobile app to find information, including mental health resources.

The combined teams from Healthy Heads and VMware developed the app quickly, focusing initially on the capabilities that would deliver the greatest benefits. “We were working on such a short timeline, but the Tanzu Act team was great at delivering what we needed,” says Frauenfelder. “There are so many things we can do with this app, and we’ve had the chance to experiment and test bits and pieces before deciding what to add. There is a massive need for these resources, so our challenge was prioritizing what should happen first.”

The app unveiled hundreds of new resources in its first few months, all implemented from the feedback of users and Healthy Heads’ founding organizations. For example, the app suggests short stretching exercises that can help drivers and shed workers squeeze in 5- or 10-minute active sessions during their brief breaks.

Reaching more people and deepening the app’s impact

Shortly after launching, the app had more than 3,000 downloads. Healthy Heads expects downloads to grow significantly as more businesses and users learn about the app.

“We’ve had lots of great feedback on the app so far in terms of the simplicity and how easy it is to use, which is important because it’s the first app we’ve ever done,” says Frauenfelder. “Part of it is normalizing the idea of truck drivers and shed workers to stop and reflect on how they feel mentally. There are quite a number of companies that want to have it automatically loaded on their company devices.”

The VMware Tanzu Labs team is proud of what they’ve accomplished so far with Healthy Heads. “The people that are behind the logistics industry, that deliver our groceries every day and the shoes that we buy off that online store—they have some real challenges in their day-to-day work,” says Wal Gedeon, associate director, VMware Tanzu Labs. “Being able to give back to those people was absolutely amazing.”  ▪