Don’t wing it when it comes to FIFO. To make the lifestyle work, plan and prepare

By Therese Lardner

The challenges and rewards of FIFO work are really unique.

The working environment, employment conditions and how you interact with workmates on site can’t compare to a 9-5, high frequency travel or even the military lifestyle. FIFO stands on its own in terms of what the lifestyle will demand of workers and their families and the opportunities it creates.

Research tells us that people tend to start FIFO work with a very limited understanding of what FIFO is actually like and what the challenges will be. The benefits of FIFO work include extended periods of time at home to invest in hobbies or to spend with family. But common stressors can include:

Transitioning into FIFO work will be an adjustment for you as well as your spouse, children and even your wider social circle. The first few months can be quite tough, and feelings of sadness, loss and confusion can be common, especially if you haven’t experienced FIFO work before. These feelings tend to settle down once you get into a new routine and establish new ways of staying connected to your loved ones. This doesn’t just happen though, you will need to take an active role in getting your head around this new way of working. Workers and their families who don’t prepare for, and work on adjusting, to FIFO tend to fare much worse and then have a negative FIFO experience.

How to adjust to FIFO

Every new job involves some level of adjustment, but the extreme differences between FIFO and other styles of work mean that there is often a culture shock for first timers. There will be changes to your work tasks, rosters/shifts, sleep and exercise patterns. Getting used to camp life will also mean getting your head around being with your workmates almost 24/7, and changing your accommodation and diet.

Looking after yourself

It’s also important to know what support and resources are available to you and your family in your new job that can help you in coping in tough times. These services are a benefit of your new job – you might as well use them.

Physically, you’ll need to make sure you have a healthy and varied diet, get enough exercise and that you work to adjust to the different sleeping patterns onsite and at home. Have a plan in place to help you adjust from work to home and back again to minimise the disruption to your sleep.

Preparing your family

One of the biggest impacts that FIFO work will have on your lifestyle will be on your relationships with your partner, children, family and friends. The cycle of emotion involved in FIFO work (constant entry and exit from the household) can be difficult for couples. The couples who adjust best are able to focus on a shared goal (life or financial) during the difficult times. Think about:

Make doubly sure that you and your partner have shared expectations about how the children will be disciplined while you’re away, how much contact and communication to expect and how you can help each other ease into and out of R&R. Here are some more tips on how families can adjust to a new FIFO roster.

The most important element of adjusting to FIFO work is preparation and planning. Winging it just isn’t an option, unless you’re looking forward to being miserable at camp, and your partner and children being beside themselves! Take active control of the change and you’ll find that you can really reduce the impact that it will have on you and your family and you can get on with enjoying the FIFO lifestyle.

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