By Jane Dodding in News on March 29, 2016.
First published for Mining Family Matters
With company budgets getting ever tighter, some Australian Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) workers are facing the prospect of longer rosters.
From what I understand, longer rosters have long been the norm in other parts of the world and can work well for some families. Apart from the general benefits of FIFO lifestyles and salaries, longer rosters can provide a greater opportunity to enhance coping skills, independence and bonding with family and friends during extended time at home.
Of course, the flipside of this is longer periods away from family and friends, together with greater pressure on relationships and fluctuating mood swings that range from euphoria when you’re headed home to sadness when it’s time to leave.
Changes to routines and disruption to your body clock can bring their own challenges. And sadly, the longer you’re away, the more you’re likely to miss important milestones in the lives of loved ones.
When taking on longer rosters, it’s important to be well prepared. Here are some tips for coping and making it work for you, your partner and your family:
- Make full use of your on-board luggage kilograms: pack what is important to you in terms of food, medications, hobbies and feeling connected to family and friends.
- Establish a routine: meals, down time, exercise, sleep.
- Get comfortable in your living environment. This provides a sense of control and normality.
- Get to know the cooks: they are in control of your sustenance!
- Sleep well: aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep, which is critical to our physical and emotional wellbeing.
- Limit your alcohol intake: too much results in poor sleep and lowers your mood.
- Make time to relax: read, meditate, listen to music.
- Don’t let sad feelings build: manage your thoughts so they help you to cope.
- Know what supports are available: for example your company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and medical supports.
- Ask for professional support if you are feeling overwhelmed or want to challenge yourself with self-improvement.
- Talk to someone if you are feeling stressed: it’s much better to confide in a partner, trusted friend or manager than letting things fester.
- Maintain personal interests.
- Plan activities to look forward to, such as holidays, an event or house project.
- Agree on how family decisions will be made while you are at home and at work. (Will your partner at home make all the decisions or will they be made jointly via phone or video hook-up?)
- Discuss how much time you will spend with friends and extended family when at home. Some FIFO families are quite strict about this, to ensure they have enough precious time together.
- Set up sharing photos, music, books, calendars etc so everyone is always involved. This will help to maintain a shared daily life.
- Make time to be together without the kids.
- Ensure you both get time to yourselves.
- Get help from others (grandparents and friends helping with kids, or a cleaner or gardener to lighten the load with household responsibilities).
- Talk openly and honestly about any concerns with your relationship or the kids, and maintain daily interaction. Treat issues as problems that you can solve together.
- Talk regularly.
- Provide surprises to show you are thinking of your loved ones (leave hidden notes around the house or in your partner’s work bag, send unexpected text messages, write old-fashioned letters).
- And above all, STAY CONNECTED.
All advice on MindsPlus is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.
For further information and a telephone consultation with Jane call MindsPlus 1300 312 202.