Wellbeing and mental health of FIFO workers

Fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers who spend a longer time at the workplace are less anxious and depressed than those on a shorter 'swing' suggests new data.

According to a report on ABC News that was one of the surprising results from analysis collected during the trial of an app designed to improve mental health in the workplace.

Perth-based FIFO mental health specialist and CEO of Tap Into Safety, Susanne Bahn, developed the app known as All of Me.

"They need to be tailored to the workforce because the stressors and issues within that group of workers is very likely to be different to another sector,” Bahn told the ABC.

National recruitment and labour hire company Chandler Macleod, trialled the All of Me app for five months from June 2017, and the app was made available to 3,000 workers in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia.

Nearly 640 workers used the app, which is totally anonymous, and half of those were FIFO workers.

Dr Bahn told ABC News that some of the results from that cohort, which is known to have higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression, were unexpected.

"FIFO workers on a 14/7 swing, in other words 14 days on [at the workplace] and seven days off [at home], were less stressed, anxious and depressed than those on an 8/6 swing," Bahn said.

"We had thought those on the shorter swing would cope better, but these results show that maybe because they've got to keep coming in and out of home, the relationship strain of re-assimilating is causing them more trouble."

Further analysis of the data captured by the app was also unexpected according to Dr Bahn.

"We found 18 to 20-year-old men were more depressed and 18 to 20-year-old women were more anxious,” Bahn said adding that if we look at different sectors like transport or government, they got completely different results again.

"Both women and men over 45 working in the government sector were more anxious and more depressed, but not younger people.

Bahn told the ABC that the results from those working for transport companies show very high across nearly every age group, and it was predominantly men.

"That reinforces the need for workforce-specific programs."

Roger Cook deputy premier and Minister for Health and Mental Health announced at the Safety Institute of Australia‘s WA Safety Symposium recently that a key focus of the government would be to develop a Code of Practice for mental health around FIFO work arrangements.


Image sourced from Flickr cc: Yurkek Kulski

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