There seems to be two sides to any discussion about the FIFO/DIDO (fly-in fly-out, drive-in drive-out) workforce but some interesting information has come out of the latest study.
Lifeline has produced what has been described as one of the biggest studies of FIFO and DIDO and uncovered stress, divorce, psychological disorders, a reliance on drugs and alcohol to cope and a stigma attached to seeking help as being prevalent among WA workers.
People have been saying this for a long time, but it is always useful when someone does the research and can quantify the extent of the problem. A media statement released this morning said that an anonymous study of more than 900 people made the Lifeline WA research study one of the biggest ever in this field of research in Australia.
The key findings are:
Help-seeking: Knowledge of services and propensity to seek help is low.
One in five workers claimed their industry did not have on-site mental health or on-site counselling facilities, while one in ten reported their industry as not having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Female workers were more likely to access an EAP, on-site mental health and counselling services and self-help information, or to use their supervisors, friends and family as support structures. While younger workers reported a likelihood to access on-site counselling, older workers were less likely to talk to friends during times of stress. Tradespersons and professionals were more likely to access hometown mental health services. Single respondents working high compression roster rotations were more likely to access telephone crisis lines as support structures.
However, a significant number of FIFO workers were not likely to make use of any mode of mental health information and services, with low compression rotation workers being the least likely to use any of the modes of mental health information and services.
Relationships: Generally positive.
All workers reported getting along very well with the people around them, both at work and at home. High compression rotation workers who were parents reported the lowest relationship quality with family and friends compared to high compression workers who were not parents and low compression workers who were either parents or not parents.
Coping behaviours: Most engage in effective coping behaviours.
Overall, workers reported engaging in fewer non-effective coping behaviours compared to effective coping behaviours. Withdrawing emotionally and ignoring personal needs were the predominant non-effective coping behaviours, with respondents working high compression rotations and those who were partnered reporting engagement in the most non-effective coping behaviours.
Stress: At its highest in the days leading up to leaving for work and its lowest upon returning home.
During rotation, stress generally increased and was reported to be at its highest levels in the days leading up to leaving for work, reduced steadily while away and dropping to lowest levels upon returning home. Women’s stress levels reduced to lower levels upon returning home compared to men’s stress levels. Higher compression rotation and partnered workers reported higher stress in the lead up to leaving for work compared to lower compression workers and singles.
On-boarding: Knowledge of the FIFO work practices was low.
Most FIFO workers had minimal knowledge of the realities of FIFO work before starting, with the number one stress being separation from family and home. A significant dimension of family and home separation related to FIFO rosters, with longer periods at work proving to be more stressful, particularly for workers with young children.
Benefits: High remuneration and quality time with family.
FIFO workers reported various benefits from their work, namely high remuneration and the opportunity to spend quality time with family during periods rostered at home. However, FIFO workers would like support maintaining their family relationships and obligations, especially when family members are in need, due to illness, for example. FIFO workers also felt that having more on-site opportunities for recreational pursuits than those currently offered would be helpful in coping with being away from home.
Recommendation 1: Develop supports that focus on increasing help-seeking behaviour within FIFO populations.
Recommendation 2: Develop supports that target the needs of specific groups.
Recommendation 3: Develop pre-employment supports – what to expect from FIFO and how to cope.
Recommendation 4: Develop ongoing post-employment supports that reduce stigma and address mental health literacy and coping skills.
Recommendation 5: Address organisational culture such that help-seeking is encouraged and supported.
I look forward to reading the full report soon.