Most team members at MACFORCE have experienced FIFO in the resources industry. We know it can have its highs and lows, and the festive season can ramp up a whole lot of challenging emotions.
The culture surrounding mental health needs to improve across our country, including within mining companies in Australia. In 2018 a Government-funded Curtin University report found that one in three FIFO workers experienced “high levels of psychological distress” compared to people in more general jobs. And with that study two years ago, before COVID-19, we’d imagine that stat to be higher today.
Creating a positive work environment is not just up to the workers; it should be a two-way street where mining companies in Australia and others in the industry place mental health at the forefront of their operations.
But for the individual working away from family and friends during the festive season, we’d like to offer the following thoughts and hope it provides some ideas on coping, or at least some comfort in knowing you’re not alone.
Five tips for FIFO workers this festive season
1. Look after yourself and your work mates
It can be incredibly hot in the mines this time of year, so it’s important to look after yourself physically. Limit alcohol intake to avoid dehydration and fatigue so you can manage your job safety, but also so you’re in the best state possible to handle any mental health challenges. If you have a work mate who does go a bit too far with drinking, spend time with them. Perhaps enjoy a meal instead of a heavy drinking session.
2. Keep up good communication
It’s hard being away from home during the festive season, so try and keep balanced communication with your loved ones. And we say ‘balanced’ because sometimes it makes it feel worse if you know all the wonderful moments you’re missing out on, but then if you don’t know what’s going on, you’ll feel left out. Perhaps a good way to handle this is to stay off social media, as we all know it can skew the authenticity of life’s events. Rely on honest and direct conversations with loved ones over the phone or even via Facetime.
3. Stay on top of finances
This point is also about good communication. One of the biggest causes of mental health issues is to do with finances. It can be hard working FIFO and feeling like you’re the ‘breadwinner’ and not be entirely across how money is being spent and managed at home. It’s important to be open regarding finances with your husband, wife or partner, to ensure it doesn’t consume you on site.
4. Make the most of being at home
When you’re home, make the most of being there to catch up with friends and family, but also use it as a time to take care of life admin, including finances. Understand what will be coming up, special events or expenses, so that you can prepare your mind or finances for it.
5. Be kind
If the uncertainties of 2020 and COVID-19 have taught us anything, it’s that the most important thing in life is to be kind. Be kind to yourself and others. Be open with your workmates; we all have so much to learn from each other and by talking, you can realise that things are often worse in your imagination than in reality. If you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t struggle with mental health issues, then please look out for your workmates.
There’s plenty of support around and some are more specific than others. We’ve found the following outlets incredibly supportive to the types of issues we’ve been privy to in this industry: