Fly in Fly Out (FIFO) mining is a common type of workplace in Perth and Western Australia.
Workers in this system typically fly and commute to the remote location workplace where they “hot bunk” or live in temporary donga style units for their swing or shift of work, which might range from 1 to 4 weeks.
The worker lives in this self-contained environment where food, bedding and basic lifestyle amenities are provided by the employer or a contractor. The worker is cut off from family and friends and must stay in contact via digital means.
Long work hours, ranging from 10 to 12 hours may be the norm, and only minimal weekend style downtime is typically included in the work arrangement. The worker may have chosen this work option due to the inability to get work elsewhere, the need for a high income to pay for their lifestyle or debts, or the worker is setting themselves up by making sacrifices by working FIFO, so they can invest or position themselves for life after FIFO.
How Does FIFO Affect The Worker, Partner & Children?
FIFO work is ideally suited to single persons as their absence away does not have a direct impact on significant others in the same way a parent within a family is impacted by this work choice. Regardless, FIFO work is demanding and stressful and can impact any of the affected parties in the following ways:
FIFO Workers report a range of issues that often have their roots in the stress and isolation that FIFO working creates. These include:
- Stress of working long hours per day over a long shift stretching weeks on end
- Recovery time in week(s) off eating into available time to function and be present to family and partners and children
- Burnout from disrupted sleep in hot bunking arrangements where there is no stability or constancy of accommodation
- Drinking and eating addictions to cope with stress and boredom of remote living in isolation
- Workplace bullying and group dynamics such as heavy drinking culture on-site
- Isolation and loneliness leading to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation
- Digital addictions such as watching pornography or going online to pass time
- Breakdown in primary relationships back in home community due to prolonged absences and poor quality interactions when back home
- Financial stress due to inability to manage high income lifestyle and wasting money or over-committing on debt such as housing or cars
- Feeling trapped in working FIFO based on expectations of partner or due to debt commitments
- Paranoia or insecurity that partner is cheating on you while you are way working FIFO shifts
- Feeling unsupported by partner and resentful of family that you are making all the sacrifices by working FIFO while they are living and spending all the benefits of your sacrifice
- Recurrent thoughts of a negative or anxious nature about your security in the job, or of your partner of family, or co-workers.
FIFO Worker partners report a range of issues that often have their roots in the dislocation and absence of their partners being absent for long periods of time. These include:
- Feelings of loneliness due to their partners absence and trying to manage social life and engagements where they attend without their partners being present
- Stress of managing the home and family without the partner being present to influence, support, exert authority, and interact with partner and children
- Feeling unsafe at living alone with children or alone without partner present
- Feelings of rejection, abandonment or being unloved when partner is home on leave but who is in recovery time and not able to function and be present to family and partners and children
- Intimacy and sexual issues due to lack of physical contact and availability
- Drinking and eating addictions to cope with stress and boredom of living a singles life whilst actually in a relationship where partner is absent a lot of the time.
- Overwhelm, isolation and loneliness leading to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation
- Digital addictions such as watching pornography or going online to pass time due to absent partner
- Breakdown in primary relationships back in-home community due to prolonged absences and poor quality interactions when back home
- Shopaholic and shopping addictions due to boredom and availability of high-income household due to partners work pay scale
- Paranoia or insecurity that partner is cheating on you while they are way working on FIFO shifts
- Feeling unsupported by partner and resentful of being left to run the family and household
- Working a full-time or part time job(s) as well as having to cope with absent partner, a family and household
- Recurrent thoughts of a negative or anxious nature about your security in the relationship and effect the FIFO work choice is having on you, your partner, or the family.
- Temptation to have an affair or being groomed or having offers of affairs put to you while partner is away working FIFO.
FIFO Worker children can suffer an impact due to the absence of their FIFO working parent via a range of issues that often have their roots in the dislocation and absence of one of their primary parent being absent for long periods of time. These include:
- Feelings of lower self-worth due to less mirroring and modelling by the parent who would normally be present and available to offer time, attention, listening, feedback, praise, advice, and protection
- Lower self-esteem and lower self-image to the same reasons mentioned above
- Higher risk of self-harm, taking the temptation of risky behaviours such as alcohol, smoking, drugs and early sexual exploration and promiscuity
- Higher risk of self-harm and suicidal thinking and attempts
- Higher risk of bullying or being a bully
- Higher risk of addictions and digital addictions such as gaming and social media obsession
- Lower academic and sporting achievement than is their potential
- Reduced drive to explore and be curious
- Higher childhood and teenager rates of anxiety, depression and criminal behaviours
- Higher incidence of sleep disorders
- Trauma caused by the regular connection and separation cycle they endure
How Can Our FIFO Counselling Help?
Energetics Institute offers a counselling and support service in Perth for FIFO workers and their partners and family. We can assist all concerned with looking at the issues and providing support at the individual and family level.
Getting support as issues arise can stop dynamics spiralling to a major crisis that could have a major negative outcome for all concerned. The stress that FIFO lifestyles create can lead to divorce, suicide or inter-family violence or addiction formation.
The resilience that FIFO families need to create comes from learning communication and relational skills that Energetics Institute can provide. We also can identify and work with individual issues such as trauma, abuse, addictions and self-esteem and self-identity issues that be the trigger for family flareups or their separation.
In particular we help FIFO families prepare and enjoy the time that the absent FIFO parent has when back from a swing, via using enhanced communication skills, conflict resolution, activity planning and time management skills.
Energetics Institute also assists with identifying the digital communication technologies such as skype and Face Time, that can create a regular day-to-day routine between FIFO workers and their partners and families. We teach why this regular contact is important and how these routines might be established and maintained.
We also have access to professionals who can provide financial planning skills, legal planning and investment guidance, outside what we do.