Stress in the workplace is becoming more and more common as a result of the competing demands of modern society. This is heightened somewhat in the resources sector due to some unique sector-specific working conditions such as FIFO work, isolation constant travel and inability to plant roots, remote living for city based individuals, isolation, time away from family, extended blocks of downtime.
A key component for FIFO workers in regards to stress levels is being able to learn ways to identify stress and what can be done about it. In studies, it is shown that approximately 30% of those studied have shown as having high psychological distress compared to 10% in the overall Australian population. That’s three times as high as what it would ordinarily be. This is a huge risk factor for the mental health and state of the workers’ well-being and overall satisfaction with life and how they deal with stress. These high levels need to be addressed immediately and the stigma surrounding mental health problems reduced. The findings highlight the importance of early intervention mental health and suicide prevention for remote mining, resource, and construction workers (Bahn, 2018).
In research studies, FIFO workers who reported stress in relationships with a partner were eight times as likely to have high psychological stress in comparison to others not working in that field. Many also reported having financial stress and also that there was a high concern for the remoteness of the location in which they lived/were assigned.
Some of the key indicators that will lead to FIFO workers stress levels would be as follows:
- Missing special family/friend events or celebrations – which can lead to guilt, anger, and resentment on behalf of the worker or their family/friends.
- Relationship problems with spouse/partner/peer – which can lead to struggles in readjusting in work and personal relations and the inability to manage those relationships and foster them properly.
- Financial stress – leads to detrimental situations in relationships, especially newly founded ones.
- Stress due to the shift rosters and constant demand change of workflow – which can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle in diet and sleep cycles.
- Social Isolation – this can lead to a FIFO worker simply isolating themselves due to the lack of desire to want to be around others after becoming extremely stressed out.
There is a huge need for mental health and awareness to rise and the stigma around it to be diminished. Early intervention and seeking help is the first step to making sure that these hardworking individuals are not being placed under working conditions that they are not able to handle. It is of utmost importance to provide workers with strategies to be able to successfully transition from work life to home life and back again successfully, without the implication of severe stress that can lead to detrimental situations for the worker and their family.
The reasons that a FIFO worker’s long-term stress is harmful, not only to themselves but to their employer are because they put themselves at risk for not performing up to par as they typically would. A strained work relationship with peers can lead to poor teamwork and a poor outcome with work production overall. High turnover and people that decide they cannot handle they fly in, fly out atmosphere. Absenteeism and a higher rate of employees calling out sick, which in turn leads to additional labour costs to cover the staff resourcing. These are just a few of the issues that arise when the mental health and happiness of workers is not a priority amongst employers.
Employees and employers in the FIFO industry can benefit from employers who proactively work to increase mental resilience within the workplace will find that the benefits are mutual. For employers, they will see that providing this support leads to more dedicated workers, less turnover, cost savings associated as mentioned before with absenteeism, and a reduction in worker’s compensation rates. The FIFO workers will benefit by finding that they are both more mentally and physically healthier, they feel better equipped to balancing work and home life, and they are more productive as a whole.
Bahn, S. (2018). “Psychological Distress: FIFO Workers Have Higher Levels.” Tap Into Safety. https://www.tapintosafety.com.au/psychological-distress-fifo-workers-have-higher-levels/
“FIFO Focus – Supporting Mental Health for FIFO Workers”. Fifo Focus a Permentis Initiative. https://www.fifofocus.com.au/home/
15 January 2015. “12 Tips for the Perfect Fly-in-Fly-Out Lifestyle”. Rio Tonto. https://www.riotinto.com/ourcommitment/spotlight-18130_23965.aspx
25 Jan 2018. “How is Our Team Spending Quality Time with their Families?” Rio Tonto. https://www.riotinto.com/ourcommitment/spotlight-18130_23965.aspx