The Caval Ridge Mine is staffed entirely by FIFO workers.
The Caval Ridge Mine is staffed entirely by FIFO workers. Lee Constable

'Booster breaks' could help burnt-out FIFO workers

BOOSTER breaks could help prevent fly-in, fly-out workers burning out and becoming emotionally drained over long periods onsite, a new study has found.

A Deakin University study, published in the Australian Journal of Psychology on Wednesday, suggested FIFO workers needed increased autonomy and scheduled "booster breaks" when they were most likely to be emotionally exhausted.

Booster breaks are 10-15 minute breaks during a shift where a worker will take part in meditation or physical activities such as stretching to help reduce job stress and sedentary behaviour.

The study required 52 FIFO workers to fill out online diaries after every three days onsite. It is the first research into how long FIFO shifts impact the mental wellbeing of workers.

Report authors Simon Albrecht and Jeromy Anglim found the diaries showed the workers became more burnt out as their shifts progressed.

"The results therefore suggest that if FIFO employees perceive their day-level workload is too heavy, do not feel they have enough time to competently complete their daily work, or if they feel they have to suppress their true feelings and portray themselves as being more positive than they actually feel, they will be more likely to experience exhaustion on a daily basis," the report said.

"The study highlighted the relevance of job resources and job demands in understanding engagement and burnout in the FIFO working context."

The researchers said employers should allow FIFO workers more autonomy and suggested introducing booster breaks to help them manage stress and workload.

"The results suggest that providing FIFO employees with significant control and discretion over their work processes on a day-to-day basis will likely result in them feeling energised, enthusiastic, and motivated to do a good job for the organisation," the report said.

"With respect to the day-level influence of workload and emotional demands on day-level emotional exhaustion, organisations might, for example, look into the possibility of providing opportunities to take scheduled work or booster breaks, and timing such breaks for when FIFO employees are most likely to be experiencing emotional exhaustion."