We all want to achieve that perfect balance between work and life, but when you work away from home, it’s a different type of life. Both FIFO (Fly-In-Fly-Out) and its lesser-known cousin DIDO (Drive-In-Drive-Out) have become increasingly common types of long-distance work over the last few decades.
While it may seem that this “jet setting” lifestyle is better than working closer to home, with higher pay and mini holiday weeks once every month, the novelty wears off pretty fast. Not only does working away have many of the same stresses as any other job, such as money, relationships, or health, it comes with its own unique stresses as well.
Whether you’re working FIFO or DIDO, it’s essential to find ways of managing the lifestyle before it becomes too difficult. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for reducing stress while you’re working away from home and when you get back with your family.
HOME – Have Realistic Expectations
It’s important to have realistic expectations about your time at home. Because with so much time spent away, it’s easy to start thinking everything is perfect at home in the real world. Which is rarely the case. So when you find yourself imagining a blissful home life, where your partner cheerily cooks and your children are always well-behaved, remind yourself what the reality is like. Likely far removed from perfect harmony because life isn’t a movie. And while you obviously deserve a little downtime, looking after the family home is also a full-time job. So remember that your partner will likely also want a little downtime too.
WORK – Take Regular Breaks
The stress of working too many hours at a time can be devastating to your long term mental health, increasing your risk of insomnia, high blood pressure, and even heart attack. While reducing hours isn’t usually possible, you should make it a priority to take regular breaks from work each day so you can relax, both physically and mentally. That might mean taking a little time to sit down somewhere, go for a walk, read a book, or maybe FaceTime the family at home. Whatever allows you to get a little “me time” for yourself away from the stresses of your work environment.
HOME – Prioritise Family Time
Trying to juggle commitments when you’re at home can often seem challenging. So wherever possible, try to make plans well in advance so you can be more proactive about scheduling quality time with your family. This includes arranging time off for birthdays and anniversaries, as well as other important family events you need to attend. This decreases stress levels by improving the family dynamic as a whole because they feel like a valued part of your world outside of your work life. Remember not to stretch yourself too thin during your time at home. Otherwise, you’ll end up feeling even more exhausted when you get back to work than before you left.
WORK – Ensure Safety Is A Priority
When you’re always working on what are often punishing FIFO rosters, the fatigue can cause known risks to health and safety. For example, workplace fatigue and stress can both end up causing a wide range of work-related injuries. You might not even realise that you’re in any danger, which is why you should always make sure the proper safety equipment is always used on site, including hiring scaffolding from a reputable source. The fact is that working in these kinds of hazardous conditions create very real threats to your health and safety, making your work life exceedingly stressful. And the last thing you need is for anything to happen at work which causes chronic levels of stress or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
HOME – Never Leave For Work Angry
When you’re gearing back up for work mode again, you should always make sure you’re leaving on a high and happy note. It’s so important there are no unresolved family problems when you’re leaving for work again, especially major ones as they can have a really negative effect on your overall mental wellbeing the whole time you’re away. And the last thing you need is additional stress about the anticipated arguments when you do come back home again. This is why you should always set realistic targets for you both to accomplish together while you’re home. Always talk together about the best options for handling any concerns or problems either of you may have. Just like never going to bed angry, you should always talk it out together before you leave.
Research has found that remote workers living the FIFO or DIDO life have significantly higher levels of stress than their 9 to 5 counterparts. They also have greater rates of other mental health problems as well, such as anxiety and depression than those in the general population. Researchers have attributed these increases to the prolonged periods away from family and friends combined with the remote location of work sites.
So, while the FIFO lifestyle can be exciting, challenging, and financially rewarding, it certainly isn’t for everyone. If you find yourself struggling with working away from home, remember that help is available. Because you must always look after your mental health.