Saying ‘hello’ boosts a bus driver’s wellbeing
By: Poppy Luckett
Last updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2023
Just over one in five people acknowledge their bus driver when boarding a bus, and only one in ten do when alighting, according to a new study
Bus drivers report that passengers saying ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ boosts their wellbeing
Signs on buses in London encourage 7% more people to greet their driver
A new report published today, Wednesday 23 August, 2023 from psychologists at the University of Sussex, working with Transport for London (TfL), and Neighbourly Lab, a social connection enterprise, found that just two in 10 (23%) people acknowledge their bus driver when boarding. And fewer than one in 10 (8%) do so when alighting the bus.
However, installing simple signs nudging people on buses to greet their bus driver prompted a 7% increase in the behaviour.
The signs, which were installed as a pilot project on the driver cab door and exit doors on over 150 buses across Hammersmith, in London, led to 30% of passengers greeting the driver when entering the bus, compared to 23% on buses without signs. This equates to 140 million more potential interactions across a year, based on 2019/20 bus data from the UK Government Department for Transport.
Dr Gillian Sandstrom, Senior Lecturer in the Psychology of Kindness at the University of Sussex and Director of the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness, consulted on the evaluation of the study, said:
“These results are really exciting because a growing body of research shows that micro-interactions like these are more well-received, and more meaningful than most of us realise. The fact that a simple nudge, in the form of a sticker on the bus, was enough to encourage people to greet the driver suggests to me that people want to reach out and connect with others, but sometimes feel like they can’t or shouldn’t.”
Bus drivers interviewed as part of the research said passengers saying “good morning” or “thank you” has a positive impact on their happiness and job satisfaction. They said it made them feel “respected”, “seen” and “appreciated”.
One driver of 14 years, named John, told the researchers: “It seems like something small but if a person, especially a young person, hops on my bus and says ‘thanks driver’ it can change my whole mood. It’s like they’re saying ‘I see you. I appreciate you’."
Grainne O’Dwyer, a Senior Programme Manager from Neighbourly Lab who led the development and execution of this research, said:
“This research makes an exciting contribution to our understanding around the value of small, daily interactions. The positive impact that something as small as a ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ can make for our brilliant bus drivers demonstrates the power of these small actions. It argues the case for looking up from your phone, even briefly, and giving a friendly smile or greeting when on your daily commute, grabbing your daily coffee, grabbing a few bits from the shop. After all, a thanks or hello means more than you know!”
Tom Cunnington, Head of Bus Business Development, TfL, said:
“Building rapport between customers and drivers is the right thing to do for all sorts of reasons as this trial has shown. Recognition and acknowledgement of each other is something we should encourage more, and I hope we can expand on this across London.”
Previous research from bus and coach campaign organisation, Greener Journeys, has found that one third (33%) of Britons reported that they take the bus to have interactions with other people. The vast majority of passengers interviewed in the current project (84%) said that they believed that engaging with their drivers would have a positive impact on them.
This data argues the importance of and desire for more connection on buses. Following the success of the trial, the team at Neighbourly Lab intend to roll out the intervention across wider bus networks.
‘Encouraging greater interaction and kindness on London buses’ was funded by The National Lottery Community Fund’s Bringing People Together Grant.
The full report can be found here:https://www.neighbourlylab.com/post/encouraging-greater-interaction-and-kindness-on-london-buses-read-our-findings-and-impact-report