Friendly greeting to the bus driver ‘has positive impact on their happiness’

Most passengers believe saying hello has a positive impact on their bus driver, but less than a quarter bother to do so, according to research.

People were more likely to acknowledge the driver on buses which had signs encouraging them to, a pilot project by the University of Sussex, Transport for London (TfL) and social connection enterprise Neighbourly Lab found.

A small survey of 77 drivers suggested a greeting from a passenger was meaningful to them, the researchers said.

Bus driver
Bus drivers said acknowledgement made them feel respected, seen and appreciated (Lucy North/PA)

Of 116 passengers questioned at a bus station, 84% said they believed engaging with the driver had a positive impact, according to the findings.

As part of a pilot project, signs encouraging a “hello” or “thanks” were installed on the driver cab door and exit doors on more than 150 buses across Hammersmith  in west London.

When passengers were observed on 117 bus journeys, just 23% greeted the driver on buses without signs, while this rose to 30% of passengers on buses with signs, researchers said.

Using 2019/20 bus data from the Department for Transport, the researchers said the difference could equate to 140 million more potential interactions each year.

Bus drivers interviewed as part of the research said passengers saying “good morning” or “thank you” had a positive impact on their happiness and job satisfaction, adding that it made them feel “respected”, “seen” and “appreciated”.

Grainne O’Dwyer, who led the 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.”

Dr Gillian Sandstrom, director of the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness, said the results suggest “micro-interactions like these are more well-received, and more meaningful than most of us realise”.

She added: “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.”

Tom Cunnington, head of bus business development at 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.”