How do you live a good life?? That is the million dollar question isn’t it.
I’m pretty sure the answer here differs between us all. And it should given our slightly different social conditioning / moral compass alignment…the world would be a dull place if we all knew how to live the same perfect life.
In my NYE blog post, I set myself a goal this year to improve. Not because I particularly want to but basically because I feel I need to. Just a lot of small improvements across the board would be a nice start.
But what does this actually mean? And where do I start? How do I start?
This is something I have I have been pondering for 6 months now so as you can guess I have taken but a few small…some might suggest tiny baby; steps on my journey of possibly 1000 miles!
And given the majority of my life currently is spent at work, should I consider narrowing this down to living a better FIFO life? I think yes.
Well a couple of months ago I posted a video on the One Minute Closer FaceBook Page of an amazing TED Talk by a psychiatrist named Robert Waldinger. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here and if you have you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Long story short…
Since 1938, Harvard University has been researching to try and find “What makes a Good Life” and Professor Waldinger is the 4th person to head this study. Basically, the study has focussed around 724 men and every 2 years they are contacted and a list of studies, questionnaires and checks are performed.
For a full run down, have a look at this link…it’s a mind blowing under taking!!
So what does make a good life? What keeps us happy, healthy and living to ripe old ages?
And more importantly…are these lessons transferrable to the FIFO / working away life?
Well basically the outcome of this study was not fame, fortune and / or success….but strong and healthy social connections.
Now for me, this is somewhat a relief as I am neither famous nor successful. And my only fortune being 3 long term investments that I won’t see mature for at least another 15 years and the return I’m guaranteed is the satisfaction of seeing them grow up.
The 3 major findings around these social connects that Professor Waldinger outlines are:
- The importance of Social Connection.
- The quality not quantity of relationships is important.
- Healthy Social Connections help stave off mental decline.
So with this, let’s narrow the discussion down from life to FIFO life. Why?
A: because after all this is a FIFO / working away blog and;
B: with the amount of time spent away from home, the importance of these relationships will stretch to those in your FIFO life.
Here are some numbers to put some context around time away from home amongst a selection of my close friends.
As you can see….working away, not just a “FIFO” role can see you spend a significant amount of time away from your family and friends. Away from those with whom you most likely have the strongest social connection.
Take me. I spend 25% of my time at home trying to solidify my connection to my kids, family and long-time friends. I barely have time to nurture my current relationships let alone try to form any real new ones.
That leaves a 75% gap to fill…away from home and these long term and strong connections.
This means away from my support networks, safety blankets, the people who care for me and my wellbeing…or does it?? For me, one of the biggest challenges in working away is maintaining the social connections at home while also forming and nurturing ones away.
So in this context, let’s explore Professor Waldinger’s findings with regards to working away from home.
The importance of Social Connection
In the words of this study…loneliness is toxic!! In my October 12th blog, my few minutes of research found that those who are connected to family, friends, and the community are happier, healthier, and live longer. This was a major finding of the Harvard study.
But we have all read, heard or witnessed first-hand how straining the working away / FIFO lifestyle can be on relationships. Given the impact this looks to have on our health, happiness and wellbeing, it is worth thinking about maintain quality relationships.
But…if you have been in this environment before, you will know what kind of juggling act this is. Why? Well here’s my opinion.
You need to maintain a strong connection at home, because it’s just that; home. It’s where you go when you are not at work and where you go when the job finishes. It’s your family, lifelong friends and your people in general. These are the long term, probably stable connections.
This was one of the main drivers in the conception of One Minute Closer. To provide a tool to help strengthen these ties with those at home…to keep the connection.
But now, what about with those we spend our time away with? Healthy workplace relationships are a focus in most industries but when you work away; particularly in remote camp / accommodation, it is all the more important.
Time zone differences, questionable internet, inconsistent phone coverage and long work hours make it extremely hard to stay as connected to those at home. On top of this; challenging days, crowded gyms, set meal times and long swings make building strong work place relationships even more important.
When you work in a remote place; it is important to feel a sense belonging, build trust in your work mates and have a feeling of connection / brotherhood to the small community of which you are a part. You can’t have a bad day and cry on your partner’s shoulder or go to the pub for a beer with your best mate.
If you concentrate on one and neglect the other; well you either go home to no one or come to work / live in a community to which you feel you have no place. It’s a tough balance.
The connections and relationships you make when away are extremely important and is why they too can become very strong. We saw an example of this with our Diamond in the Rough and a long lasting friendship. On top of this, the nature of these industries is quite transient so important people come in and out of your life more often…which is extremely tough for some.
I have made quite a few strong friendships in this industry, who I continue to maintain social connections with and hopefully after this project is done I will have a few more.
Staying connected works both ways; and this is another reason for One Minute Closer’s existence.
So this is all well and good but how can it be achieved? Well, here are a few pointers that I try and use and may work for others. They are by no means fool proof and are high level but might get your thoughts going about what you can do.
Social Media: This may seem obvious but is a great way to remember birthdays and chime in to the occasional conversation. Makes those at home remember you are still there and also reach out on special occasions.
Communication platforms: Make use of as many as you can. Email, SMS, FB Messenger, phone, FaceTime, Skype, postcards etc. Some are time savers and some are more intimate but all are effective!!
Make the effort: Maintaining connections requires effort and you have to make it!!
Communication: Tell your friends and family your movements, availability; both while onsite and away. If they understand you time limitations and plans, they will be more supportive (hopefully). Also communicate how important site / work connections are to you while you are away. Tell them that you have a poker game every week, do boot camp Tuesday nights, have a beer and chips on a Friday and why you look forward to it….why this keeps your head together while you are away.
But…yep, there is a but. I can tell you from experience that this works both ways. Understand why it is important for you partner, kids, family to hear from you regularly. Refer to point one on this…there are so many ways for a quick hello which can make all the difference.
Personalise your Space…and show them: A picture in your work space, a special toy next to your bed and send them a picture so they know. It’s some reassurance and it’s also kind of nice!!
Stay present: When you are at home, be at home. Take from that what you will.
Now given the above; back to my original question of improvement. As I’ve said before, I like to lead by example but in some areas I’m a do as I say, not as I do kinda guy and this is one of them. I need to heed my own advise and work on consolidating my social connections both at home and at work. I’m OK at it but certainly not good enough.
So…are strong FIFO working relationships important? I’d say they are a necessity….an absolute necessity. They make your time at work more enjoyable, your time at home invaluable, the lives of those you leave behind a little less stressful and your memories of your FIFO experience just that little bit rosier.
So, until the next instalment; keep safe and STAY CONNECTED!!!