Ask any FIFO worker and they will tell you that keeping a relationship intact when you’re a fly-in fly-out worker is tough. Few believe that being away from your partner, friends and family makes the heart grow fonder. However, there are steps you can take when you’re away and at home to maintain a strong relationship.
Keep the lines of communication open when you’re away and at home. When you’re away it’s more difficult to see the other person’s non-verbal cues, so you can only go on what the other person says. When you’re face to face, remember to read their body language, it can tell you a lot more than just their words.
Remember to ask your partner how they’re feeling about you working away and how you can make it work better for you both. If you have an argument, be respectful and work towards a resolution as soon as possible.
When you’re working away, you may not be preparing your meals and cleaning your living area. So, it’s important not to expect the same treatment when you come home. It’s likely your partner expects you to do your share, if not more, when you’re home. Remember your partner has had to do it all - care for the kids and the house, cook the meals, the washing, feed the dog, while you’ve been gone. Sure you’ve worked long, hard hours while you were away, but your partner may have done too and hasn’t had a change in scenery. If you need the first day back to catch up on sleep and recover, explain this and find out what you can do to help from day two.
You probably already call or Skype while you’re away, but maybe you could be doing a little more. Ask loved ones when is the most convenient time to talk and try to call them around that time.
Some days you might call more than once so you can speak to young children and at another time to chat to your partner when the kids are at school or in bed. Remember to ask how your partner and family are going. You might be having a hard time being away, but they may also be having a bad day. There may not be much you can do to help them but you can be supportive and show you care.
On special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries, try to do something a little extra like call early in the morning or leave your loved one clues to find a present you hid for them last time you were home. If it’s your anniversary while you’re away, ask a friend to visit your partner on the day, leave a gift or organise for flowers to be delivered. As hard as it is on you to miss out on a celebration, it’s also hard on family not having you there to celebrate.
If you return home from a swing in a low or depressed mood, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to make the most of your time with loved ones. If you’re feeling down or depressed, make an appointment to see your GP. If you’re on site and can’t make an appointment with your doctor, contact a psychologist by phone through the company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The service is confidential and provided at no cost to you, so you can talk freely about any concerns.
It’s easy to feel like you only eat and sleep when you’re on site, so try to do an activity you enjoy while you’re away. Catch up with a colleague for a chat, join a group, listen to some music while you go for a walk, visit the gym or watch a movie. Being able to ‘switch off’ at the end of a shift is important so that you feel refreshed at the start of your next shift.
Try to do some fun activities when you’re home. It might be a family activity that has something everyone can enjoy. You might take your partner out for dinner and you organise everything from the babysitter to the reservation. If going out to a restaurant or the movies isn’t possible, have a date night at home by making a favourite meal and drinks, or have a meal delivered but set the table beautifully and organise drinks or sweets to jazz up your Uber Eats dining experience. You can build suspense while you’re away about what you're planning to do with them when you’re home.
Relationships take effort, whether you’re with someone 24/7 or only see them after long stints apart. Being apart for long periods may mean that you both need to put in a little extra effort into your relationship. If you find that your relationship is struggling, contact your Employee Assistance Program for support. Remember to tell your partner that they have full access to the EAP whenever they need assistance.