7 top tips every FIFO worker should know for a Merry Christmas

A Christmas Zoom call during the 2020 pandemic, complete with Santa hat and mask.

A merry FIFO Christmas: 7 tips for surviving the festive season on site.

Being away from your family and friends at Christmas time can be tough.  

This year, thanks to coronavirus, that’s an experience millions of people all over the world will be having.  

It has been an extremely challenging year in many respects — and particularly so for the many FIFO workers who have spent much of 2020 forcibly separated from their family and friends by border closures. 

So being separated from loved ones this Christmas is likely to be particularly painful for many of us. 

To help make things easier, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you get through the festive season if you are working. 

1. Make an effort with the surprises 

While Christmas is not meant to be about the presents, if you are the one going away, leave a gift at home for your partner. Even better, leave it with someone who can give it to them on Christmas Day for you, as a complete surprise. 

If you have children, arrange for them to also give your partner something on the day. And, of course, have something under the tree for them from you. 

Leaving a small gift for your family to open each day you are away over the festive season, in the form of an advent calendar, can be a great way to stay connected. The gifts can include tickets, activities and ideas for fun things to do as a family when you are on R&R. 

2. Maybe give social media a miss 

2020 has been a big year for people deleting their social media accounts — partly because the news has been so depressing and partly thanks to a documentary about Facebook which left millions of people deciding it was “time to take back our minds”. 

There’s no need to delete your social media but, if you’re away on site for festive celebrations then seeing all the Christmas posts on social media can be very disheartening. While it’s a great way to see what your family are up to, it can also highlight what you are missing out on.  

Consider turning off notifications for the day. Or only check in once you have FaceTimed your loved ones. Post a Merry Christmas message on Christmas Eve, and then switch off for the next 24 hours. It’s a really good way to “take back your mind” at an emotionally challenging time. 

3. Get that all-important Zoom call or FaceTime in nice and early 

If 2020 has given us anything to thankful for, it’s the range of communications platforms available that mean we can speak to whole groups of people easily, no matter how spread out across the globe they might be. 

If it’s possible, organise or take part in a family Zoom call, so you can feel connected to your family and friends. 

It’s a good idea to have the call first thing in the morning, if you can — especially for that all-important call to your partner and kids. Yes, you may wake your kids but, hey, it’s Christmas! If you can be online for your kids opening their gifts, then do it. That’s a treasured memory that, thanks to technology, you can keep  even if you couldn’t be there in person. 

We’ve come a long way from the days when employees had to line up for one of only three payphones in the camp to make their Christmas call home. That’s something to be grateful for! 

4. Plan for your own celebrations when you’re home 

Arrange to do something fun and different when you are on R&R after Christmas Day. That way you all have something to look forward to celebrating. Whatever you do, turning it into an event everyone is excited about is a great way to celebrate the season.? 

You could also celebrate early with your family or partner. Have a festive lunch or dinner before the day. If you have kids, exchange a gift before you go back to site. Kids can actually quite enjoy this arrangement, as it means Christmas lasts a lot longer than one day! 

5. Find ways to be festive at work 

Rather than focusing on what you are missing by not being at home, consider ways you can enjoy the festivities at work. 

We’ve yet to hear of a site that doesn’t have a special dinner organised for Christmas Day. While some may not have a set serving time, arrange with your crew or team to all get together for dinner. 

Organise a secret Santa among the people who are working. It can be a great way for your team to feel a little festive. Buying $2 Santa hats for everyone to wear (safety rules permitting) is another option.  

6. Make things on site feel festive 

Take something with you to site that reminds you of Christmas. Gingerbread, shortbread, chocolate-coated almonds: whatever your usual Christmas indulgence is, having some on site is one way to feel like you’re not missing out. Take enough to share with your colleagues; it’s the season for giving, after all. 

Take decorations to site with you. A few decorations around the place will bring a bit of cheer to you and your colleagues working on Christmas. 

7. Remember you’re all in it together 

2020 has been a big year for the saying “we’re all in it together” — and it’s as true at Christmas as it was when the pandemic hit back in March.  

Remember that everyone on site is also away from their loved ones, and they’ll be experiencing a range of emotions, too. Some people find being away easy. Others do not. So, make a habit of checking in on your teammates and making sure they’re OK. Share your treats with them and show them kindness. 

Have a Merry Christmas! 

Dan Hatch
Mining People International