On Thursday 21 March 2019, Tanya Pavez, Managing Director of Magnetic People, was invited as a guest of Curtin University to learn more about the results and recommendations of the research report ‘Impact of FIFO work arrangements on the mental health and well-being of FIFO workers’.
Developed by the Centre for Transformative Work Design (CTWD) and funded by the Mental Health Commission, the research report is one of the most comprehensive FIFO research studies ever undertaken in Australia. It included surveys and interviews with over 4,000 current and past FIFO workers and their families and tracking the experiences of 200 FIFO workers during their swings.
The research found that compared to benchmark groups and Australian norms, FIFO workers are a group at greater risk for mental ill health and at greater risk of suicide. Workers in their study experienced psychological distress, higher scores on thoughts about suicide, greater incidence of burnout, lower sleep quality and higher levels of risky behaviour such as drinking and drug use.
Many factors were found to shape the mental health of FIFO workers, including work site, team and organisational factors. Poor-health predictors include rosters with long times on site, permanent night shifts, unsupportive supervisors, bullying, perceived job security and negative attitudes towards mental health.
But, there is much that can be done to mitigate these mental health risks. The report unpacks 18 detailed recommendations, divided into three key focus areas:
- Mitigate Illness: Strategies to help staff already suffering from mental illness.
- Prevent Harm: Strategies that build workforce capabilities and work systems that protect employees from risks to their mental health.
- Promote Thriving: Strategies that promote positive wellbeing and support employees fulfilling their full potential.
The 18 Report Recommendations
- Develop a culture that prioritises mental health
- Assess psychosocial risks and monitor the mental health of FIFO workers and the factors that affect their mental health
- Provide mental health training for direct line managers
- Address the stigma associated with mental health
- Educate and promote a broad range of support services
- Ensure strategies, policies and procedures are in place to manage mental health emergencies and injury
- Increase mental health literacy through information and training for all workers
- Prepare and educate FIFO workers and their families for FIFO work
- Provide reliable communication options and foster connections with home
- Implement initiatives that support FIFO partners and families
- Implement rosters and shift structures that optimise mental health and wellbeing
- Identify and monitor the impact of job roles, work design, workloads and employment contracts on mental health
- Build community and social connections
- Review FIFO camp rules and regulations, and assess the impact on mental health
- Provide a permanent room at accommodation sites
- Recognise the mental health risks of financial stress and job insecurity
- Identify and implement strategies and interventions to enable FIFO workers to thrive
- Identify and prioritise further research
CTWD provide some great strategies not only for employers to implement to improve the experience of FIFO work, but for those of us who work FIFO or support a partner, family or friends who are FIFO.
Read the Summary Report for further examples of actions that you or your company can take to implement the report’s recommendations.
Mentally healthy workplaces not only benefit employees, but also a business’s bottom line. Research has shown that for every dollar spent creating a mentally healthy workplace, there is a positive return on investment of $2.30. It’s good for people and it’s good for business.