A key period in rotational shift-work or FIFO life is that of coming home and leaving home again – as well as the actual journey.
Flying- in/flying-out and driving-in/driving out involves using a variety of means of transport; be it their own car, company busses, helicopters or airplanes. Travelling is part of the work in all seasons and, therefore, also under bad weather conditions what can lead to stress. When you are on the road with your own car, make sure you do not immediately travel right after a 12-hour work day. Get a good sleep the night before in order to be safe on the road.
The journey can help to calm down your mind: leave the private things in your mind behind and concentrate on your next shift, or, leave behind work related stress before you come home.
The days before the shift ends you might start to feel that the days get longer and the longing for the loved ones or friends back home grows.
The expectations of a perfect time off-shift grow as well. For many, the first days of coming home means sleeping and relaxing, being by themselves and getting relief from the structured industrial environment of the mine site.
Others enjoy a lot of social interaction with their friends and family back home when they come off shift before they relax and ‘zone out’ for some time. For others, it’s a time to go on holidays to the beach or travel abroad.
Sometimes this transition period may also lead to frictions with the expectations of the partner, spouse or kids. All are just looking forward to a perfect time.
At home the one who returns engages in different family routines. Sometimes this is tricky when, for example, different styles of parenting conflict. John, a geologist, expands: “When I come home, I feel a little bit guilty that I was away. So I usually bring little presents for the kids. I know I spoil them and of course I am less strict than my wife has to be while she is responsible for the majority of the time.”
Departure is another important period. The last days off from work are usually filled with preparing the luggage.
Workers must bring their own toiletries, prescription drugs, reading books and computer.
People are saying good bye to friends with a couple of beers or a dinner with the spouse. Saying good-bye can be an opportunity to connect. Jenny, wife of an underground miner, says, “You know I always stick a little love-note in his suitcase so that he finds it later on when he is already in the camp. That way he thinks of me while he is away.”
I start my re-establishment of a normal life prior to leaving the job site. I try and relax to get the adrenaline out of my system. I slow down my thoughts and even meditate on the trip home. Andrew
It is really a special day when he gets home. He is so tired. I try to make the kids not jumping on him all the time, but they are so happy to have him back. He needs time, for me this is ok. Alicia
I have to keep calm when I return home, as my family are doing their normal stuff, and there I am, wanting to catch up on lost time away. Frederick
Sometimes I feel like a stranger when I get home. They have their routines, their life and I am like a visitor. This happens sometimes. Barry
I get a bit restless and stressed out when it comes to leaving again. There are a lot of things to be organised, packing your bag, and then saying good-bye. I am not a good ‘good-bye-person’. Jerome
When he leaves I always pray that he comes home again safely – that he does not drive too fast to work, that nothing happens at work – I know that it is dangerous out there. Especially underground. But then I let it go. Jenny
Sometimes, I am a bit worried when travelling, especially when the roads are slippery in winter and when flying on these small planes, you know. Conrad