We asked hundreds of FIFO workers for their best tips for coping with being away from family and friends on their away swing. Here’s what they said.
While a career in mining is a great opportunity, the FIFO life can be a struggle for some people sometimes.
Especially in the early days on a new site, if you don’t know many people and it’s all a bit new, or when you’re missing out on special occasions back home because you’re away, it’s common to feel a little lonely, isolated, sad or depressed.
So, what’s the secret to finding your feet quickly and settling into what is really a very different way of life?
In our latest Mining People Poll we wanted to find out what strategies and tactics can help a FIFO worker cope with the distance from family and friends. Hundreds of FIFO workers in the Australian mining industry shared their top tips for surviving a long away swing.
Here’s what they said.
Make full use of the technology available
The top response, by far, was a recommendation that FIFO workers call (or FaceTime, etc.) their partner (and kids if you have them) either every day or as often as possible. This helps you feel connected to your life and your family back home, and helps alleviate the sense you’re missing out on something.
One respondent told our survey: “I’ll take one hour after work to call and talk and make sure I’m OK.”
Make fun plans for your home swing
The next most popular response was to make sure you’re planning fun and exciting things to do with your loved ones when you get home. Not only does this give you something to look forward to, but as one respondent told us “you need to be kind to yourself and reward your family for their sacrifice as well.”
Remember why you’re working FIFO in the first place
There are lots of reasons people find themselves working in FIFO roles. Perhaps it’s a step towards a long and happy career in mining, perhaps it’s something they’re doing for a while because it pays well and will provide a good start in life for themselves and their family.
Whatever your reason is, it’s important to focus on your goals. Remember the reason you’re there in the first place; it’ll help provide perspective and give you the boost you need on tougher days (and everyone has tough days at work, even if they’re not working FIFO).
Talk to your colleagues
Everyone on site is in the same boat. It’s a rare individual who hasn’t got someone waiting for them back at home—whether it is a partner, kids, parents, or a beloved dog. So, your colleagues on site will understand what you’re going through.
If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, what you’re feeling isn’t new—and many people who have gone on to have long and successful careers in the Australian mining industry have found ways to cope with the distance, the missing out and the moments of loneliness. Again, everyone has tough days.
Talk to someone you trust or whose company you enjoy and share how you’re feeling. Build yourself a support network on site.
Get plenty of exercise
Another popular response from FIFO workers was a recommendation that you get a lot of exercise. It gets the blood pumping, gets air into your lungs, helps clear your head and reduces stress.
“Don’t drink, and try to get plenty of exercise,” one respondent said. As alcohol is a depressant, that’s certainly sound advice.
Join in on activities on site
Most sites have some kind of activity you can join in on. It’s a good way to meet people, make friends, and enjoy a bit of human company. When you’re engaged in activities with other people, you’re less likely to feel lonely and isolated.
Find things to do that keep your mind occupied
“Find hobbies that divert your attention,” one FIFO worker told us. It could be reading a book, watching Netflix, it doesn’t matter—just find something you love doing that occupies your mind. If it occupies your hands as well, so much the better, as that will help you deal with nervous energy.
A few other tips for FIFO workers
While those were the top seven responses from the FIFO workers who filled out our survey, there were a few other popular pieces of advice you might find helpful:
- Focus on fixing your relationship issues while you’re on your home swing
- Remember, once you make some friends on site, you’ll be fine
- Don’t worry, it’ll get better as you get used to it
- Try counting down the days until you’re home, so you can see it getting closer.
For some people, switching off and not contacting home was the best way for them to cope with the difficulties of a FIFO away swing. Others suggested if you’re really finding the FIFO lifestyle tough, there’s no shame in realising it’s not for you and chasing a different dream and a new career.
Your mental and emotional health are really important and the FIFO lifestyle can be tough. It can also be an incredibly rewarding career. Hopefully some of these tips will help you make the most of your FIFO role and you’ll enjoy a long and rewarding FIFO career.
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