One Minute Closer V1.4 – Coming Soon to the App Store & Google Play

Two days after posting my most recent FAQs blog, the One Minute Closer App was officially launched on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Two months later, the response to the free lifestyle app has been nothing short of amazing! With nearly 1,000 users worldwide, it’s fantastic to see how One Minute Closer is helping so many FIFO and Away Workers remember that every moment away is one moment closer to your loved ones.

Since the app’s launch in January, we have already released two new versions to fix the initial bugs and provide you with the best app experience possible. And now, after receiving bucket loads of feedback from our 3,000+ Facebook Community, we’re excited to announce that One Minute Closer Version 1.4 will soon be available for iPhone and Android devices.

So what can FIFO Workers and their family and friends expect from OMC V1.4? Check out the app updates and brand new features that you’ve been asking for and will soon be receiving!

 

Enhanced Worker Calendar with More Date Options

‘Finally, a roster management system that allows me to easily manage and share my FIFO calendar in real-time’. It’s always great to hear this general consensus about the app’s Roster function, as there is no other platform for FIFO Workers to share their roster in such a simple and intuitive manner. So now it’s time to provide an even better Calendar experience for Away Workers and their loved ones!

FIFO Mobile App

Firstly, we understand how shift times can vary across different occupations (Check out my post about Day & Night shifts here). That’s why we’ve added Afternoon Shift and Night Shift date options to provide greater customisation and ingenuity when setting up and editing your roster calendar.

Also, to help you family, friends and colleagues easily understand your colour-coded roster, the updated calendar will feature a colour index that clearly outlines the six roster dates options.

With One Minute Closer’s updated Roster function, managing and sharing your Roster will be easier than ever before!

 

Improved Roster Setup Process for Adhoc Workers

As you may already know, I’m a Fly-In Fly-Out Worker who created One Minute Closer to help others like me stay better connected to their loved ones while away from home. However, that doesn’t just mean other FIFO Workers.

With many occupations involving dynamic rosters with varied travels, One Minute Closer’s Roster function includes an ‘Adhoc’ option for workers who don’t necessarily have set travel plans. After some great insight from a variety Adhoc Workers, from airhostesses to paramedics, scheduling your ever-changing roster has just gotten a whole lot easier.

When you select the ‘Adhoc’ Roster option, you are directed straight to your calendar. From there, just tap on the calendar dates to change it to a work shift, travel day or annual leave. Once saved, your roster schedule is now viewable to all the followers in your One Minute Closer Community.

FIFO Roster

 

Brand New Feature to Customise Your Community

The idea for One Minute Closer came from there being no single platform for me and my colleagues to stay connected with our family and friends back home. And so began the task of conceptualising a mobile app integrated across all stakeholders in a FIFO lifestyle – workers, family, friends and other loved ones – to be able to stay connected in one location, in real time.Calendar Roster App

As such, the app’s Community function was the platform created to be one click away from those who matter most to you. To ensure a safe and secure user experience for everyone on One Minute Closer, we have now added a new feature that allows you to unfollow other users

When you select a user in your Community and view their profile, there will now be an ‘Unfollow’ button in the top right that, if selected, will remove that user from your Community.

This allows you to customise your OMC Community to only those family, friends and colleagues that you want to share your time away from home with.

 

One Minute Closer Version 1.4 will be available for free, worldwide, on the App Store for iPhone and Google Play for Android devices.

What new One Minute Closer update are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

FIFO FAQs Part 3 – The One Minute Closer App

Yes…it is time for another FAQs blog, but this time it’s not about life working away.

My Part One and Part Two FAQ blogs received a lot of feedback and raised more questions which I have use for subsequent articles or saving for future ones.

So, with the impending release of the One Minute Closer to Apple iTunes and Google Play stores, an FAQ blog on One Minute Closer seemed like a pretty good idea.

Over the past month or so, I have been asked many questions about the release and usability of One Minute Closer; all of which I have tried to address through banners ads and updates on Social Media. Functionality, usability, security…all great questions and many with similar thread.

FIFO Roster App

One Minute Closer was conceptualised for the benefit of away workers. Designed and built in an attempt to make life working away from home just that little bit easier. So I figure if I can collate and answer the questions that potential users of the App have now…it might just make the One Minute Closer experience that little bit more enjoyable and contribute to One Minute Closer being that little bit more beneficial.

Due to the diverse nature of possible users of One Minute Closer and the functionality of the App, I’d like to think of these as AQs because some of them have not been asked frequently but am sure you all will gain benefit from the information presented.

So let’s go…the first round of AQs for the One Minute Closer App:

 

Q:     Do I have to work away to use your App?

A:     No. In fact One Minute Closer is made to benefit both those who work away and those at home. When you sign up, you choose a Profile Type; Worker or Family / Friend.  There are differences between the profiles which are tailored for each user type.

 

Q:     So I have to be FIFO to use the App?

A:     No. I have many friends and colleagues working in similar industries and face the same challenges as I do. One Minute Closer was designed and built to benefit all people who regularly travel away from home for significant time frames to work.

When you initially choose the roster function, you have a selection of Roster or Ad Hoc Worker. If you are an Ad Hoc traveller (not on a set roster), you input your first trip and then use the Edit function to add travel as you plan it.

 

Q:     Who came up with the app name?

A:     I came up with the name for this app in the first couple of weeks. I was mind mapping the concept for what I wanted the app to achieve and brain stormed a few name ideas with the team at Launchpad App Development. One Minute Closer seemed to encompass the intent of this app so it stuck.

 

Q:     I am a Paramedic and get my roster a month in advance, but is never the same. Can I use your App?

A:     Of course. One Minute Closer was designed with these types of scenarios in mind and in fact we used some sample rosters for Air Hostesses to test this functionality. You set up your profile as an Ad Hoc worker and input your first lot of continuous days on shift. This might be 3 days or 2 weeks; it doesn’t matter.

After this it is simply a matter of using the Edit roster function, tapping the days you are working to change their status. To change the status of 20 days in a month takes approx. 60 seconds.

Work Roster App

 

Q:     If I want to see someone’s roster, do they have to be a One Minute Closer user?

A:     They need to Sign up as a user. In your community page you can search for existing users of One Minute Closer and send them an invite to connect. If they are not current users, you tap the contacts icon in the top right of the community page and this allows you to choose from your phone’s contacts list and send your family member, friend or colleague a text message invitation.

This message will contain a link to either the App Store or Google Play along with your user name so they can search for you with ease.

 

Q:     Do I have to allow someone else to see my roster?

A:     Yes you do. When you want to connect with another worker or them with you, a notification is sent and you have to accept this invitation for them to view you Profile and Roster.

 

Q:    What if my Roster changes?

A:     No problem. One Minute Closer was designed with changes to rosters front of mind. If your roster changes permanently, it is simply a matter of using the Reset Roster function and inputting the new roster details.

If you have a one off change to your roster; again, no issue! Just use the Edit Roster function and change the applicable days in the applicable month and save.

FIFO Worker Roster

 

Q:    Why the message function?

A:     Well, I know that there are dozens of messenger applications but the intention of One Minute Closer is to have one point of contact for those who work away for extended periods. You can build your community, see when they are working, when they will be home and also chat with them; all in the same application. This includes group messaging that allows you and numerous community members to chat and organise those R&R trips away!

One Minute Closer Android App

 

Well, I think this is a good start for the current AQs. I will keep updating this list as more users / potential users pose more questions. I am passionate about this app adding value the lives of its users so these AQs will always be actual questions asked by real people and always answered by me.

If you download and use One Minute Closer, please don’t hesitate to provide any feedback; both positive and negative as I am committed to continuously improving the functionality of One Minute Closer.

If there’s a function you want, tell me!! If there is one that you think could work better…tell me!! This app was made for away workers and their family / friends; and if you are reading this article you will know how diverse and dynamic a lifestyle it can be.

Stay tuned for more FAQs, updates and information on One Minute Closer and all things working away.

Until then; keep safe and stay connected!

A Look Back on 2015 to See What’s Ahead in 2016

Firstly…HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!!

Well the start of a new year and the time when the obligatory resolutions are made and the best intentions to keep them are sworn. Myself, I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I think if you really want to make a change, all you need is the dawn of a new day but I do understand how some folk can view the New Year as a fresh start.

As the calendar clicks from 31 December to 1st January, it is a great opportunity to reflect on the year that has been. Has it been a good one; a successful one? 12 months of consolidation or one that you would rather forget. Has it been a combination of all four?

For me, 2015 can be summed up in one word…MANIC! Just when I thought I was over the surprise of 2015 beginning, we are a few days into 2016.

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Around 830pm on NYE, I found myself sitting on my couch; TV on, kids in bed and flicking through my phone; reminiscing over the year that was. What kind of a year had it really been..and where did it go!!

I once read that if you want to know what someone fears losing the most, watch what they take photos of. This was an interesting thought as I scrolled through the moments frozen in time on my small screen.

Lots of photos of the kids, house renovations, camp life, trips away and plenty of One Minute Closer screen shots from various testing exercises. Whatever they were; I could recall taking them which seemed to give some tangibility to the last 12 months….so this is where it has gone!!

Then I came across one photo; the picture below. As soon as I saw it I was instantly entranced with a flood of memories, happy times, simple times, missed opportunities, hope lost and even some insight into what my 2016 may hold.

SA Jetty

I remember taking this photo so vividly. It was a sunny winter’s day in a small sea side town a few hours north of Adelaide and I had just gotten off the phone with the One Minute Closer development team. That 10 minute discussion was really positive and after a magnificent omelette for brekky, the day was definitely moving in the right direction.

As I hung up the phone, I noticed the landscape in front of me so knelt down and snapped this image. I remember looking at the picture after I’d taken it and thinking this is a photo I’d talk about for years to come. I stared at the screen, eyes flickering left to right to left at how both sides of this picture are very similar but different enough to make them individual.

The sky on right being more cluttered but clearing from the gentle breeze blowing from the left.

The horizon on the right having more peaks and troughs, up and downs, with a dip in the middle of the jetty then moving up and to a consistent level moving across to the left.

The shore on the right more littered with debris from the rising tide, but as the water recedes a beautiful clean beach is left for both sides to share.

The lights of the jetty sit on the right side and point slightly to the left side; as to lighten the connection between them both.

Even the pole laying on the left side, was currently allowing others access to the middle for others to observe both sides as one.

As I looked to my left, I locked eyes with a stunning woman standing a few meters away who was waiting for me to finish taking my photos. Only for a second or two but from her bright beaming smile, I knew she was enjoying the view as much as I was.

As she turned away and started to walk up to the jetty, I hoped that in this moment in time, I had captured a glimpse into my future…in that moment it all made sense and I could feel my clouds starting to clear and the wind of change come across me.

But alas, the dulcet chuckle of Stephen Fry bought me back to my lounge, my wine and to reality. In this reality of New Year’s Eve alone, how do I now view this same captured imagine?

Are the sides that different? Or are they so different that the jetty is just too big of an obstacle to overcome?

What if the breeze does not blow the clouds away but brings more?

What if the rising tide dumps more debris making the pristine beach that both sides share, shrink until it totally disappears?

Or…what if this photo is just that…a photo? Just an image taken at a split second in time of a quaint little beach and a wooden jetty; just a few hours north of Adelaide? A photo that should hold no sentimental value at all.

Have I associated too much personal and emotional value with this photo; over and above its actual worth? Or is that the value that all pictures derive; because they hold virtually no physical value?

Thinking about this, I realised that I have become way more sentimental over the years I have worked away. Maybe it’s because of the milestones I miss with friends and family? Maybe it’s because I have made tough sacrifices because of my current life balance (or thought I had to??).

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I have heard that to be sentimental is a form or emotional fatigue. Or maybe it leads to emotional fatigue…expelling energy on trying to return to something that has been left behind? Being carried away by the emotion that something stirs up rather than the reality of it?

Whatever the case, I have definitely come to the conclusion that I need to be more aware of when the clears waters of reminiscing about times passed start to get muddied by personal metaphors and emotive bundles of straws.

So going back to that picture and why it suddenly make me sentimental? One word sticks out to me now. Hope. I hoped I’d captured a metaphorical glimpse into what my future holds.

By just hoping, I am realistically taking a leap of faith that clear skies, less debris and that smooth horizon are on the other side of my jetty. That by continuing on my current course, that beautiful woman on my left will let me shine some light on her and that she will block the jetty from others walking between us.

Given how my NYE was spent, I am guessing this is not a realistic scenario to hope for.

On the other hand, if change from being just hopeful to becoming optimistic about this metaphor; I have to look at the evidence at hand and ask is it is a reasonable scenario believe in? As it is clear on current evidence that it is not; it pretty much means I have to change, become better, do something different.

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I guess this little trip down memory lane has simply reminded me of a few things that I believe I need to keep front of mind for 2016 and beyond:

  • Be optimistic over hopeful and to have faith in my ability to recognise the changes I need to make to justify the optimism;
  • It’s OK to reminisce but don’t get caught up in lamenting mistakes and attaching personal feelings where they just don’t fit;
  • Keep taking photos of things and times that are important to me…because they are important to me;
  • Continuous improvement, I have to become better. Better at a lot of small things but generally a better human being;
  • Live in the now. The past has gone and if live well now…the future will take care of itself;
  • And, last but not least….I need to organise to go out next NYE!!

When I get back home after this swing, I am going to print that picture and place it somewhere inconspicuous. A place where I will see it every now and then and it will remind me of that time some months ago and also to do a little self-check to see if I am on track for 2016.

Who knows what the coming year will hold? Professionally it looks to be intriguing; personally, a little exciting but I do think that if I can keep the above in mind; it will be a positive one.

And just maybe, I might get another glimpse of that pretty smile under the jetty lights, on the dawn of a new day, on that wooden jetty and quaint beach in a town just a few hours north of Adelaide…metaphorically speaking.

SA Champange

So, cheers to a happy, prosperous and safe new year to you all!!

Until the next instalment; keep safe and stay connected!!

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The 3 Most Influential Women In My Life – A FIFO Blog Everyone Can Relate To

I write these blogs for many reasons, all outlined in previous articles. I get loads of feedback on the insight some get into FIFO life, including the challenges, the rewards and the unknowns. I guess readers of my blogs are split in to two groups.

Those who have worked away and can somewhat relate to what I write about. Sometimes it’s “Oh it’s not just me” or “I never looked at it like that” with some construction vs production / operations banter in their as well.

Then there are those who have not worked away. The family and friends of away workers. These readers seem to get an appreciation for what it is like when away from home to work and why we choose this path. Or some just seem to like the pictures of haunted houses, comics and toy cars.

This time, I’m choosing a different path. This time I want to share an experience that we can all relate to and have had to do at some stage in our lives. Some more than others, but it’s unfortunately is part of growing up.

This blog is about an opportunity I had to reflect and appreciate a special person. A couple of hours of my life that I will hold close for a long time and a nice little reminder for me to stop, put life on hold for a few moments and just remember every now and then.

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Friday the 4th of December of my last R&R. It was a warm but overcast and drizzly day with a strong north easterly wind blowing across Morten Bay. Just after 10AM, I was sitting in the back of an 20 foot SharkCat; hot coffee in hand and nursing a slab of granite while chatting to my parents and sister about nothing specific.with elaine_carrie

My sister was clutching a small box of coloured flower petals while my Dad held a thick decorated paper bag with a small decorative box inside. We chin wagged and laughed on the 15 min trip out but we knew that this morning would be tough for us all.

As a family, we were off sea to set free the ashes of my Great Aunt who’d pasted away just over 3 years ago.

Eileen “Dig” Newton was a magnificent lady. Born in 1924, she was raised in a simple time and formed simple but strong values. Her early years spent in Papua New Guinea; she never married, never held a drivers licence or owned a VRC and had the same job for over 3 decades.with regan

And although she had not an ounce of PC in her and never minced her words, she always spoke with respect and dignity.

Along with her older sister Caroline (my great Aunty Carrie) and her Husband
Les (my Great Pop), she spent 20 years raising my mum as a single working women in a small, modest but welcoming home.

When my sister and I came into the world, her attention turned to us and for the next 35 years. She nurtured us sternly, fairly, tolerantly and with as much love as her big heart could give.

In her later years there is nothing she would love more than being surrounded with infant and toddler grandchildren; who loved her company just as much.Grandkids

The engine noise started to dim and the sharkcat slowly started to drift to a holt. The only movement was of the waves and the noise of the wind whistling across the ocean chop was almost haunting. As my Dad struggled to remove the cap from the tin that contained Dig’s ashes, I caught my sister in a gaze toward the horizon.

In these few seconds, I wondered if she was thinking of the night we watched Haley’s Comet from Dig’s back landing, or eating fresh mangos that had fallen from the tree in her yard. Or was she wondering what ever happened to the “Jones Express”…our home made go cart that lived under her house?

Mum and Dad bent over the side of the boat and slowly set her ashes free…free to roam the stretch of coast line the Dig held so dear her whole life. As my sister slowly started to sprinkle the beautiful yellow petals into the ocean, I held the custom made memorial just under the water line.

An 180x180cm of slab of black granite with a brief but special message engraved on a stainless steel plate attached to it. It was as simple and unique as the lady we were there to celebrate.

As I let it go and watched it sink out of view; I thought of Scampy (Dig’s 3 legged dog), Cocky (her pet galah), the plaster Frankenstein head we made and painted for her and drinking Pasito on school holidays at her Bribie Island caravan park home.

Even when she had her old Pianola and used to load the sheet music all day for my sister and I. The noise was horrendous but we just loved playing that thing so much.

Looking around at my family, there were few tears and big smiles all round so I knew they were all remembering Dig as I was. As we all watched the petals float into the distance, it was time to head back to shore and get out of the rain.

As the engines fired up and we started to move, I thought about something that I hadn’t thought about for quite some time.

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I was sitting with Dig at her sister Caroline’s wake and we spoke about many things we hadn’t before. Stories about my Mum’s childhood, her time in Papua New Guinea and why she had left; about her childhood and how she got her nickname…Dig. This continued over the years to conversations about her memories of WW2 ending, the Kennedy assassination, and other major world events.

One day while I was sitting at work, around 4 years ago I had a brain storm…almost an epiphany! Calling her while rushing out of the office, she answered…

”Dig, it’s me!!”

“Oh! Elain.. oh I mean Warwi… I  mean Reeg!! What are you calling me for??”

This was standard for everyone…at least 2 names before she got yours right and then asking why you called. To which the response was always; “because I want to have a chat.” And then came the frustratingly sweet…

“Why?”

“Dig. I’m going to buy a Dictaphone and come to chat with you. I’d love to hear all your stories again so I can record them!!”

She finally agreed, although reluctantly so that afternoon I bought a Dictaphone and went for a visit. We spoke for a couple of hours and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I had forgotten batteries!!

So on to the next time… Well, there was no next time. I never did take that Dictaphone up to chat with Dig again. In fact, it still sits in the centre console of my car. Every time I rummage through to find a pen, a receipt, a hair band for the girls; I come across that Dictaphone and wish somehow that it was full of stories from past generations.

A wish I know will never come true and stories I know we have just committed to the ocean.

The slowing of the boat broke my reflective trance and looking around I realized it probably had done the same for my family. Glassy eyes and sombre looks greeted my refocusing eyes and I wondered were they all pondering missed opportunities with Dig?

I hoped not as that’s not what she would want us thinking about as she watched over us from her final resting place. By the time we got onto dry land, we were all ready for a coffee and some food so we headed to a great little organic café on the waterfront.

It was open and welcoming; of vintage but not old fashion, modest with a youthful spirit and just made us feel warm and comfortable…just like the lady we were there to celebrate.

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I was recently told by a very wise woman that the 3rd and final stage of passing is when no one is left to remember you. I am hoping by penning these reflections, along with the memorial now at the bottom of the ocean, Dig will live on in thought long after I am gone.

We all have people dear to our hearts; both past and present. Those special grandparents, family members, and close friends whose impact on us is really only tangible as we move further on with our own lives.

I think about Dig often, along with other family and friends who have passed over the years and every time I do, I like to smile and be thankful that I have been blessed with their time, no matter how short.

Anyways, back to the regular content next time and if this blog reminds just one person to stop, reflect and smile about some memories of a special person, then it was worth it!!

So….

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….keep safe and stay connected.

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Live’n the Dream!” by Being Prepared for Opportunity – The Mick Andrews follow up

I am not a big believer in luck. Some years back, a fleeting life acquaintance said to me “luck is where opportunity and preparation meet” and that has stuck with me ever since.

Every time I hear someone say “I was so lucky”, or “yeh it was just blind luck” I always come back to this and think of how; even in some small way they have prepared for when opportunity may strike. I mean everyone who has ever won the lotto has prepared themselves for the win by purchasing the ticket!

2 blog articles ago, I wrote about Mick Andrews. An ambitious and dedicated young man that set his sights on his dream.

He planned and executed a FIFO strategy that would see him leave the industry with enough savings and experience to pursue his love of photography and travel. He also made a point to differentiate himself in some way which led him down an unknown path to Central America.

He “lived the dream” in away work to go and live his dream!!

Well since this post I have had plenty of questions about this young man; especially from those in my team and others who knew him.

As you can imagine, travelling remote parts of the world is significantly more exciting than emailing your old boss back so I was quite surprised and excited when I saw his name on an email in my inbox yesterday morning.

When I opened it, I could not believe what I read and was amazed at how his story was unfolding.

Here is what he wrote to me…

cubans

Hey mate,

So I’ve been trying to find different people and stuff to do while I’m away that I’d never get to do at home. I’ve been pretty quiet on the whole social media thing for a week or so for a reason. Here’s the story.

About 3 weeks ago I meet a guy who is a travelling journalist from Melbourne and over a few beers we got on straight away. So we decide to work together and do a collaboration or story about something while we are both travelling. 

4 days ago over breakfast I had been reading the Spanish newspaper to try and improve my Spanish when I noticed that there was a huge article about some Cuban migrants only 1 hour away on the Costa Rican border. I knew instantly this was where me and Dave had to go do. We hired a car, hired an interpreter and drove straight there.

We spent the whole day down there interviewing people who had travelled from Cuba and are now on their way to the USA by foot. They are being held at this border because the Nicaraguan government will not let any more Cubans into their country. 

Was a pretty emotional day to say the least as we spoke to countless people who have left everything back in Cuba to chase their dream of being a free citizen in America.

I took photos and video while Dave interviewed.

You want a story for your blog, here you go. Made front page of Vice News. We never thought it would but I loved taking these photos. 

Feel free to share this and name me in everything. 

Not sure where this will take me now but it’s a start. 

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Below is the link to the article in Vice News and as you can see when you read it, this was definitely a story worth pursuing.

https://news.vice.com/article/2500-cuban-migrants-are-still-stuck-in-costa-rica-and-theres-no-end-in-sight

It wasn’t luck that Mick was reading the paper that day, or that he met a journo to work with. These were both opportunities that crossed his path and the last 2  years preparation meant he could take full advantage of them.

If he had of stayed on at work one more swing…didn’t go on one R&R trip to get more experience, didn’t aim to chase new landscapes or wasn’t so eager to learn Spanish; this article would never have been written.

Mick would never have met Dave, these Cuban’s would have one less voice and Mick would still be drinking coffee in another cafe wondering where his next opportunity would come from.

For more of Mick’s amazing photography and information about him, check him out on Instagram at  mickandrewsphotgraphy and at www.mickandrewsphotography.com. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on Mick’s progress if / when I get any information. I know I am looking forward to hearing which path he will beat next.

Until the next instalment; keep safe, follow your passion and keep preparing because when that opportunity comes along you want to chase it as hard as you can!! Oh and stay connected!!

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A night in the day of a FIFO night shift – Is it so different to day shift?

Night shift… Is it just day shift at night? Is it so much different?

I have had many night shift workers argue this point with me for many years and for good reason; they get paid more!! This tends to be the motivation for entering into, and not wanting to leave a night shift position.

In my blog on fatigue (…is it the cracked step in the work place ladder) I mentioned that one of the main causes of fatigue in our industry is shift work; particularly night shift.

I’ve worked most forms of night work through my career. 7pm-7am shifts that were evenly matched with day shifts to make up a 28 roster while in the UK. After hours on call that required 7 – 14 days of ad hoc night work. Various fill-ins and all nighters when required while work was busy…even working 4 nights / week as a head doorman in a Canadian Nightclub for 12 months.

But I have never worked on a constant night shift roster on a large project; let alone on a mega project while away from home. So is it much different to working days? Does it lead to increased fatigue? Let’s find out.

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Night shift requires workers to operate against their circadian rhythm. Before you ask, as I did; your circadian rhythm is your body clock that determines sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24 hour period.

Apparently, this body clock has evolved to be controlled by the same area of the brain that responds to daylight. This is why humans (most humans) are most alert during the day.

Disruptions to this rhythm are what contribute to fatigue and the more regular these disruptions, the higher the levels of fatigue can be. This can in turn lead to something called Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD).

Basically, SWSD is caused by constant disruptions to this circadian rhythm and is characterized by insomnia and excessive sleepiness. SWSD mostly affects people whose work hours overlap with the typical sleep period.keep-calm-i-work-the-nightshift

The effects of SWSD cannot be taken lightly. Many studies have shown side effects of prolonged exposure to SWSD can be increased heart disease, digestive disorders, clinical depression and….the big C (eeks).

Ok… so enough about sleep disorders; we’ve all been tired and felt the effects. Had a few big nights in a row and found it hard to adjust. Been on call for a week or two and had a day or two off work to recover. Or maybe have even worked night shift at some stage and had to cope with the rigours of disrupted / unusual sleep patterns.

But what does night shift look like on a resources project while working away? Is it different to night shift on a large project working close to home? Is it different to night shift in another profession working close to home? Also, what are these abnormal sleep patterns? Do they actually make a difference?

Writing a thesis on the comparisons will do no one any favours; particularly given I struggle with 1500 words. But what I can do is compare a day in my life working on a mega project away from home to a day in the life of a night shift equivalent.

A colleague of mine has kindly agreed to share his experiences. At a high level, we have many things in common. We are similar ages, comparative job scopes / responsibilities, similar attitude to work / the project and share a similar love for life and family.

As well as a high level run down of his day, I have also asked for his insights into night shift; thoughts, feelings and anything else to help understand the life of a night shift worker. My insights, thoughts and feelings can be read in most of the previous blogs…so you will have to go looking!! So, below is a comparison of our working “day”.

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…times by 25 groundhog days and that’s my roster.

Insights from this night shift worker:

Dayshift is a hive of madness with everyone trying to get their own tasks for the day over the line and seems to be no real cohesion to a department.  Nightshift is a lot more team orientated as there is a lot less madness, with each department more willing to assist each other. The leaders on nights foster this and it works very well.

You can get a lot more done on night shift both individually and as a team due to the lack of competition for resources, materials, radios etc. The permit situation however is more complex as there are less of the client operatives and other resources required to get the work done.0b928b18e3721358bf903dd7b1e57c184fc8e6db65d149c54f713a1dc11db0d0

My transition from days to nights was more about getting used to the sleep patterns than the work. I get a lot more tired on night shift than on days and haven’t been able to fully adjust to the change. It is the same for returning from R&R. It does take some management and adjustment to settle into the night shift pattern.

For those who have joined the brotherhood of FIFO or have done so in the past they will tell you that you earn every cent of your pay while away.  Missing the good things in life and the sacrifices we make are not worth it at times. When family are sick or even pass those hours and days of helplessness are awful. Working nights definitely magnifies the effects this, it’s one more factor to adjust to. We all hope that one day we can pay off our house or retire, whatever the goal it will be well earned. 

These are only my experiences and others will have a different slant on how things work but at the moment it works for me and my family.

In contrast to the above, I was chatting to another night shift employee in a similar position who wants to be changed to days. I was actually quite surprised…so quizzed him on this and he told me…

“I’d love to do days. My missus would be stoked if I went back on days. The extra money is great but the lifestyle is horrible”.

“With the time difference, I can’t call the kids from camp and have a relaxed chat. I don’t get to talk to the wife for very long and when I go home it takes me a few days to adjust which frustrates everyone”.

“It’s hard on nights. No support, resources and coordination as well. Days seem a lot better run”.

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So did we answer the question; is night shift just day shift at night? Is there any difference? Well I think that’s only something you, the reader can tell me. Everyone will have their own differing opinion on this, particularly the night shift workers.

Whether they are called night walkers, zombies, graveyard dogs or just night shifters…they are still workers with all of the same challenges as their counterparts on day shift; they just seem to be a little bit more tired. I hope this blog gives you just that bit more insight into night shift and the extra factors that make it that little bit more challenging.

You might do shift work, day work, highly physical work, technical work; even part time work. You could work from home, near home, away from home or a combination of these. The take away is that no matter what your working situation, actively managing any kind of fatigue is important.

Until the next instalment; keep calm, work nights and stay connected!!

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“Live’n the dream…” To go & LIVE YOUR DREAM!

“Live’n the Dream…”

It’s something most of us say in passing about the last meeting, our day, our week or life on site in general. It’s typically meant in jest as this is the furthest thing from actually living the dream that is possible at the time. I know I say it most days. And most days I have it said to me, or in ear shot of me.

“How’s your day?”.

“Oh I’m live’n the dream!!!” (insert sarcastic emoji face)

“You too eh, I thought it was just me….”

Some days I hear it and think it’s a shame these amazing, powerful words; an ideology for most, have been diluted into a sarcastic passing comment. Sometimes we lose focus of why we are doing what we are doing and just get stuck in the daily grind.

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So, let’s turn this around. Let’s put some positivity back into these 3 words. After all for some people, working FIFO or other away jobs, are where dreams are made and realised!! In my time, I have come across some amazing stories of guys and girls coming into this line of work with an exit plan; most typically a financial one. Hitting their goal point and then going to fulfil the dream of a life time.

I work everyday with these highly motivated, goal oriented people. Their commitment to their job and their team is a credit to them and goes a long way to achieving all that they want from this lifestyle.

There are many examples of:

  • Buying a house, another house or paying off the mortgage;
  • Extended / frequent overseas holidays;
  • Dream cars…boats and more cars;
  • Or just saving to have lots of time off.

A colleague of mine has a picture of a Shelby AC Cobra on his screen saver. I remember first meeting him and commenting on the car, asking if it was his. He responded with “No but it will be. That’s my motivation to keep coming back”.

A few more that have stood out are:

  • Successfully starting up and operating an events management company – a keen interest prior to FIFO life;
  • Financing an international move for an entire family…the entire extended family;
  • Starting up a small accessories business in South East Asia…a result of frequent trips to a favourite R&R destination;
  • Family holiday of a lifetime around the US for 6 months, all kids in tow…also made possible with mum working for an airline working away when required;
  • Buying a retirement house for Mum and Dad who lost all savings due to investment reasons…

All of these achievements were realised because the workers came into the working away lifestyle, particularly FIFO; with an exit plan. They have / had clear goals, or at least some milestones they wanted to meet.

I’ve always thought it is very important. Not only do I think it limits the sense “why am I here / what am I doing” which can bring you down and magnify other negative emotions. But also allows you to make mini milestones to re-evaluate your choice of career and lifestyle.

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I’d like to share with you a fantastic story of an ex-team member who did exactly that. He had a plan, set his goal, spent 18 months “live’n the dream…” and is now living his dream!!

He was (still is) a likeable guy and interesting, but one I knew was getting itchy feet about his time on this project. He came from another department on the site and really settled into the team, found his groove and created his niche.

A young man. Single and quite worldly; he was always up for a laugh and was open about his passion for photography and travel. Most R&Rs he would be off around Australia or Southern Asia in search of the ultimate photo.

One day he came into my office and closing the door nervously behind him, he said “mate, can I have a chat”.

The next couple of minutes we spoke about the resignation letter he had just handed me, discussed leaving dates and also around the extra time he just offered to get the team through a hand over period for his work.

After the official discussion was over and I thanked him for his efforts; we started to generally chat. Nothing outside what I’d usually ask when a team member decides to move on. “Do you have anything lined up”, “what are your plans”, “make sure you look us up on LinkedIn”.

“I’m off to pursue my own business”, he told me.

Obviously this really captured my attention and started an hour conversation that was as memorable as it was inspiring.

I had been following his Instagram page for a few months. Looking forward to the amazing beach, surf and landscape photos that would be posted after his R&R adventures. Remote beaches. Crystal clean barrels closing out with palm trees in the background. Fire orange sun sets with a surfer silhouetted on the face of a perfect crumbling right hander.

I used to think…now this guy is living the dream!!

Hearing his plans to pursue his business, I was so excited for him that I just had to extract as much information as I could.

Me: “So when did you just start to love photography?”

Him: “Around 5 years ago mate…a mate of mine is a phot-hog so I guess I have to blame him” (although I’d say thank him)

Me: “When did you first start to hatch a plan to pursue it as a business?”IMG_1781

Him: “I love to travel and I love to take photos. So thought why not combine the two. I started with beach shots from my trips but realized that heaps of people were doing them, so now I travel to photograph different things. It’s a lot of hard work but with the love for what I do, I think I can make it work.”

Me: “How is it all going then?”

Him: “Yeh, its going well mate. I am at the point now where I have decided I want to do it full time and really make a go of it.”

Now, just when I thought I could not be any more engaged in the conversation…BOOM!! I am at the point now where I have decided I want to do it full time and really make a go of it.

Hearing this I realized that this guy had a plan and this was his next step…planned, calculated next step and he was literally resigning to pursue a dream!!

I had to find out more. More about his FIFO experience. More about his planning, how he got through it. What I can learn from him? What can others take away from this story?

Me: “Did you come to this project with a vision for this?”

Him: “Honestly; I came here to get in and get out. I had a vision of what I wanted to do and a target amount of money I needed to make that happen. I also knew what I needed to do on my R&Rs and over the last 18 months, everything was aimed at that goal.”

Me: “How did you stay focused on the end goal. What did you do along the way during your FIFO journey to set
yourself up for success?”IMG_1783

Him: “Friends and family were a big help and support network. Also trying to constantly push myself out of my comfort zone to counter the routine of 26 days on swing. I’d take trips to get different / unique images; stuff to set me apart from the competition. Things like diving with whale sharks, great white sharks, sky diving, remote places…just chasing the perfect image”.

Me: “Did you have an exact point in mind on when to exit – time, money, age, experience?

Him: “I had a rough time line but really did depend on the budget I’d set. I had some great photographic experience from my travels so I checked the bank account and decided it was time to pack up and travel Central America with a great mate…who also worked up here.”

Me: “What did you like about FIFO; benefits / opportunities?”

Him: “Clearly it has given an opportunity to get ahead with my life and to set me up to travel, see amazing parts of the world and most of all working to do what I love. FIFO is a hard lifestyle and can see how people get trapped, or feel like they are trapped, but I came here with a plan, a goal and now it is time to go.”

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As you can see, this is indeed a success story to come out of the FIFO lifestyle. It is one of many hundreds, if not thousands, of similar tales of folks realising their dreams through pursuing a career working away from home.

I think it is necessary to share these as it is such a positive thing to experience first hand and pass them on. If this story inspires just one person to chase down their dreams through a working away lifestyle; then I call this blog a success.

Until the next instalment, keep safe and stay connected!!

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NOTE: At the time of the posting of this article, the subject of the blog was travelling Central America. All images used in the cover photo and body of this article were supplied by him for use in this blog. Once confirmed, I will post all website and social media information on the One Minute Closer Facebook page. If you would to know more about the subject or would like to request contact details, please email me on info@oneminutecloser.com.au. He’s a stand up guy and a magnificent photographer.

More FIFO Working Away FAQs Answered… with more pictures!!

It seems that from the response to my first FAQs blog and conversations / mail since, the FAQs on FIFO is a topic of interest and the response has been somewhat unexpected. It seems that a lot of people across the board are interested in what life is like when working away.

What also surprised me from the feedback was that life in accommodation camp was quite different to what those that feedback expected it to be. A lot of family and friends saying “It looks different to what I expected…but not too sure what I expected”, or something like that.

I really hope sharing this information, especially with some pictures, gives you more insight into the world of FIFO project life. I think it helps create a more accurate picture of what life out here is like and maybe put into perspective some of the harder things about working away the have been discussed previously.

So, that being said…here are some more answer to some FAQs!

 

What exercise facilities are available?

All camps I have stayed in have Gyms…to differing standards. The last IMG_4990accommodation I was in had a brand new, very spacious, heavily equipped gym with floor / boxing facilities and separate large cardio room.

The one before that; 4 shipping containers joined together with a bunch of weights lying around.

My current camp has two gyms, a variety of equipment and are very crowded most times. There are outdoor facilities though which make it handy and I love outdoor training!

 

Is there a supermarket nearby?

Not on my current job. There are small shops that cater for things like chocolate, drinks, snacks, toiletries etc. Most remote camps have these small retail facilities with supermarkets or convenience stores being a long drive or flight away.

You can though bring certain foods to camp when you come back from R&R (examples on the facebook page) or if you know Dinnersomeone coming from Perth or Karratha mid swing…it’s a good source of groceries. Generally if you plan ahead, you can get a good variety of the course of your swing.

 

Is the mess / food hall / whatever you call it, open all the time?

Not all the time. The mess opens at 4am and operates for breakfast. The crib facilities (where you make your lunch) are available until 1200 to cater for late arrivals or those not at work. Mess opens again for dinner at 5pm until 8pm.

 

What’s the food like?

As previously discussed, the food is what you make of it. It’s notIMG_4596 gourmet selection but there are enough options to keep you healthy and interested. This is fairly true for all of the camps at which I have stayed. The dinner mess here has a “healthy” option selection if you want to try and watch what you eat. The picture on the right is a pretty standard selection from the health side.

There is also an outdoor BBQ area here every night that caters BBQ steaks, chicken, fish, sausages and burgers. Not the whole range every night but the selection is good enough to get variety. Also, this keeps me away from the mess so I don’t have to try and walk past the desert bar!

 

What’s your favourite food at work?

Have to say ice cream!!!IMG_1746

Saying that though, my eyes do light up in the morning when I see that BBQ meatballs are out for crib that day! I load up on the meatballs, cover with red onion, pineapple and cheese…then about 10am, it’s into the microwave for 2 minutes with some lemon pepper seasoning. So…damn…GOOD!

 

Can you befriend the cooks to make special requests (E.g. Gluten free)?

At some camps, yes but this one, no. At previous camps I could get custom made omelettes for breakfast and cooked to order grilled steak, chicken or fish.  There are some options that are gluten free and the staff are usually pretty accommodating to pointing these out.

Again, I think there is enough variety to cater for most dietary requirements, especially if you bring some supplies with.

 

What’s your best friend’s name? Do you have a special handshake/fist pump?

I don’t really have a BF at work, but plenty of work colleagues that I find I can relax and chat to after-hours about work, life or just nothing in particular. Having a great back to back in my role definitely helps and makes the days a lot more light-hearted.

We are all in this crazy thing together so I find the comradely between like-minded people on these projects quite strong and extremely important for maintaining mental and emotional well-being while I am away.

Work is work and we all have our dis-agreements. But because you can’t walk away at the end of the day, the relationships you develop with your colleagues, subordinates and superiors is quite unique…and yes may lead to some special handshakes!

 

Do you speak to you family often?

The mobile coverage at the camp is questionable at best and in peak times it’s extremely bad. We do have land line access from within our rooms but with the time difference, it’s hard to get the kids before they go to sleep by the time I get home from work.

I try to finish early a couple of times a week so I am back at camp to Skype or call at 5pm. To my sister, not as much as I should (Check out this earlier post for more) and again with time differences and her kids it’s hard to nail down some quality chat time. We do try for at least once a week.

My parents, at least 2 times a week when they are not grey nomad-ing.

 

Do you miss your kids?

Terribly!! I miss them so much and coming back to site is extremely tough but the time at home is what I call “quality time”. I get to make them brekky and dinner every day. I can drop them to school / kindy and volunteer to help out with sporting and activity days.IMG_4945[1]

This is the constant conundrum for away workers I think…one hand, working to give your family everything they
need, having a solid income and spending quality time with them while at home. On the other, spending extended periods away from them and missing so many special events…

As I write this I am 2 days from going home and all I can picture is the 3 of them running down the road, arms out-stretched screaming…”Daddy!!!”.

 

What do you miss most when you are away?

My kids 100%. I do also miss not getting to spend time with friends as much as I’d like. And you know, I really miss time at home. Actual time in my own home, in my own space; being in a totally familiar, safe and welcoming place.

I do miss being able to totally relax, have a beer or wine on my own back deck looking west at the sunset and reflecting. Reflecting on the “whys” in life and how 26 more days has not bought me closer to any answers.

Oh and I also miss the beach.

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What do you look forward to most about going away?

Coming back to see how the project is going. These jobs are so big they and so critical to an organisation’s success; when they change it is always a significant chain of events.

Actual physical, on the ground change is usually slow and un-noticeable over the week or 2 that I am off. But at the IMG_1739level of the organisation at which I work, the dynamics around how the project is being executed change rapidly.

IMG_1740Staff turnover, position changes, work front prioritization, system handover, procedural updates, incident investigations, hierarchy shifts, skylines, fish-bones, manning curves, milestones….it’s an exciting environment.

 

What’s your favourite colour?

Good question. I am a black and white person but since looking at interior colouring for home, I think I’m a Red / Blue person. My parents bought me an amazing street painting while in Mexico with vibrant reds and blues and just love the combination.

 

Is your office like in a big building or like one of those relocatable caravans?

Well, to be honest it’s some from column A and some from column B. My particular office is in a single story relocatable office. It’s no high rise

IMG_1630head office but it’s comfortable enough for what we use it for.

There are 2 story versions here also, pretty much the same but twice as high. They have all the essential / standard features we need to execute the project and no complaints about the working conditions.

Our team office is located directly across the road from the main power generation plant and about a 3 minute walk onto the work site.

Yes, this is my desk and yes I sit on a big ball….

 

Who’s your celebrity crush?

Kath ZJ, Amber Herd for sure…oh and Gloria from Modern Family. But…I did watch the movie Columbina and Guardians of the Galaxy a few months back as was quite taken with the actress in those.

It was bought to my attention by my back 2 back that they were the same actress so I need to add Zoe Saldana to the list.

Oh and both great movies if you haven’t seen them!

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Well I think that’s a wrap for this entry but still plenty more FAQs in the stock pile to answer…so there will be a part 3. Hopefully this gives that little bit more insight into the away life of a partner, friend or family member.

Or maybe it will help with your choice to embark on a career that takes you away from home for extended periods. Whatever you got out of reading this blog, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it.

Until the next instalment, keep safe and stay connected!

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The 4 verified ways to increase your happiness…even when working away

So…I was walking home last night after a hectic day, admiring the above sun set and thinking about how I am going to answer some of the FAQs I have collected. After the great reaction to the first FAFly In Fly Out AppQ blog; I thought, yeah it’s an easy win and will be just as enjoyable to write.

Well, one of these questions got me thinking. I long time mate of mine asked me when I was back last, “so read your blog and saw where you live…how do you stay so upbeat after 26 days?” At the time I didn’t think much of it, besides texting it to myself (yep, still doing that) and then chatting about what’s doing.

Reading this again made me think about another interesting conversation I had with a close colleague on our way back to camp last week. Basically it was around why some of the greater team members are just whiners. Everything about the job is just the worst, literally everything…yet they choose to come back every time. Go figure.

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We could have room service for lunch and work in climate controlled bubble suits but for these guys the lobster would still be a little rubbery and the air flow a little chilly on the back of their neck!! The conversation wasn’t quite that tone but I’m very weary of our PG rating.

Anyway, anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not always so upbeat. In fact, the last few weeks has culminated in me feeling extremely flat, despondent and disappointed in many aspects of my life. I’ve had my fair share of turmoil over the past few years, but you know what…so has just about everyone. So, I figure I’ll try to be generally an upbeat, positive and gracious person.

This got me thinking. Is there anything that away workers like me; actually people in general, can do to feel happier? Working away there’s always the usual suspects of socialising, eating right, exercise, staying in touch with those back home, setting / achieving goals and all that.

But what else? What else is a proven to make your mood better if done regularly? Well, I set myself a goal. 2 hours on-line to see if I could find some answers. Anything…and how it may apply to me.

Well, here is what a couple of hours of reading research on happiness has taught me.

4 of the things that the internet tells me are certain to make you feel happier…

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1. Give your emotions a label / a name / a description

We’ve all heard the term “don’t bury your emotions”, “you can’t help what you feel”..or something along those terms. Well, it seems that trying to supress or outwardly hide your emotional state; can inwardly cause the emotion to intensify.

On the other hand, if you put some tangibility behind what you are feeling it does some brain activation stuff and works to reduce that emotion. Sound simple? Well by the looks of it, I think it actually is. Do you feel sad, lonely, disappointed, angry, anxious; or all of the above? Well if that’s the way you feel, then say it, write it down, record it on your phone.s989274705046675_p118_i1_w303

“I am Mad!!”

“I feel sad…”

“That disappointed me.”

This has actually been proven to reduce the levels of this emotion, and the more you chat about it the lower it gets.

Has anyone out there found themselves talking in the car to no one about their day. I really hope I’m not the only one… I am not a big one for chatting about that kind of stuff, as aren’t most men according to the stats; but I do find writing things down very satisfying. It does make me feel a bit happier to be honest.

I was also in a situation this week where I’ve had a constant sense of un-ease. That full time achy belly; that semi nervous, kind of sick feeling?? Constantly thinking about it I couldn’t come to any definitive reason why.

But without really meaning to in a conversation a couple of nights ago, I actually talked out the reasoning and the feeling simply went away; well mostly.

I called it un-easiness.

I said “I just feel….un-easy”.

I guess this is why that simple but so effective question of “Are you OK” is such a powerful one. It engages discussion about feelings and in just a few simple words like “actually, I am sad” could start an upward spiral for which someone will be forever grateful.

Interesting Fact: Hostage negotiators use this tactic to talk suspects down from highly charged emotional situations. Kind of makes sense.

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2. Decision making

Doesn’t everyone feel better once they’ve made a decision? I know I do. And I also feel better when someone else has made one that I cannot (or not allowed to).

IMG_1713Have you seen one of those people who get so worked up about making a call…head shaking and hands flapping like a pre-fight ice-hockey player?

What happens after they decide? They turn back into a “normal person”. Well, apparently this is more brain stuff, electrons firing, planets colliding which again releases happy chemicals so is no coincidence.

Making a decision, any decision, is your way of setting a course for yourself, solving a problem or changing your perception of your surroundings; no matter how small. All of which reduces stress and has a positive effect on your state of mind…who’d have thought right!!

Something else interesting on decision making that my “research” uncovered is the accuracy of the decision has an effect, in the opposite way you might think.

If you dwell on getting it perfect, it can have the opposite effect and increase stress and anxiety. Not only in the extended thought process to get there but at the contemplation that such a well-made decision could be wrong.

IMG_1712This all makes perfect sense as from experience and recent track record, I am quite good at making less than perfect decisions. Actually, I’ve been known to make some howlers. But they were made and seemed good at the time.

I found a great quote by a guy named Barry Schwartz who says “good enough is almost always…good enough”. When you think about it, that’s pretty good guidance.

Well this suits me fine as I love making decisions; the bigger the better. I know some will be the wrong ones but as I make more of them and learn from the mistakes of the past I find the wrong ones are becoming…well less wrong.

So there; being decisive can make you happier.

Interesting Fact: To “sleep on it” actually has a positive effect on our decision making process; it appears. Apparently it reduces fatigue related oversights and also allows your conscious mind to be distracted from the decision allowing new perspective.

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3. Be grateful

I’m no rocket scientist but even I know that being grateful is not always easy; but is a wonderful emotion and part of a healthy outlook on life. I am a massive believer that those who are gracious are more optimistic, humble, less self-absorbed and generally happier. Oh and tend to show a lot more optimism.

IMG_1719This seems to be proven as being grateful, or thinking of things you are grateful for, stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin. This is what the drugs Wellbutrin and Prozac respectively, were made to synthetically replicate.

So here’s my piece of logical thought here. Not only does showing gratitude make your brain feel happier, it could also help strengthen relationships? What I mean is that if you are gracious toward others, especially those you are grateful for, they would intern derive some kind of satisfaction and happiness??

Of all the left hooks that life seemed to have dished me over the past few years, not a day goes by when I’m not grateful for the food I eat at work, the small bed I sleep in, the job I have, the place I work, the rotation I am on, the unpaid overtime I do, the late flights back home and the bad internet in camp.

So are you asking “why?” Well if you are then I don’t think there is any point in explaining, but given you are reading this blog I am sure you know what point I am making.

IMG_1718Maybe we should all ask ourselves on a regular basis…”What if I woke up tomorrow with only what I am grateful for today?”.

Something to ponder.

Interesting Fact: It’s believed to be impossible to be grateful and feel envious at the same time.

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4. Touch

Everyone knows the saying “I just need a hug”, when they feel over whelmed or just a little sad. Well, it seems that this is an actually thing. A hug, actually any intentional  physical contact makes you feel better.

Apparently, intentional contact with other humans releases small amounts of oxytocin which makes you feel good. Even a hand shake, pat on the back or an ‘atta boy rough-up-the-hair head shake can heighten the mood of both parties.

If fact the opposite is also true as intentional social exclusion or avoidance can cause feelings similar to physical pain.

When you work away, it is very hard to find this physical contact and I guess reading about it is something that is quite important.

Being out of reach of those whose touch can make all your problems seem to melt away in times of need, does magnify the feelings of isolation…no doubt about it. Looking back, maybe this is what our fierce lion cub was referring to in blog entry 4?

a-bear-hug-happy-teddy-bear-dayOn the other hand though, this could explain my slightly concerning observation over the past year or so…the extended man-hug. This seems to be an increasing phenomenon but given what I’ve read, this could be a good thing if these guys get an oxytocin boost. Better to feel better than worse right!

But, it certainly doesn’t explain the other, way more concerning trend I have also noticed…the number of man top knots has increased to not only a concerning level but an alarming one. That’s a blog article all on its own.

Interesting Fact: The sense of touch is the first to develop in humans at about 8 weeks into the gestation period.

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So, there you have it. 2 hours of well spent time to come up with 4 proven ways that the internet has told me are scientifically proven to make you happier. It was by no means the stuff of an academic paper but was fun to search and write about it so I hope you enjoyed reading it.

When you really think about the above points; it’s all common sense and stuff we probably all knew. Maybe it was time for just a little reminder…as it was for me.

Until the next instalment, keep safe and stay connected!!

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Fatigue… Is it the Cracked Step in the Workplace Ladder?

For the past few years, it’s hard; actually pretty much impossible, not to see depression mentioned in the same article as “FIFO”. With the tragic results of depression being well publicized, especially within the working away community, it’s hard to argue the correlation here.

As I am far from an expert on depression and have had little direct exposure to its effects and potentially devastating outcomes, I will not comment on the extent to which I think it affects the away worker community.

I can tell you that according to the ABS, approx. 45% of all Australians will experience mental illness / disorder in their life time. Also, approx. 6% of young Australian’s will be diagnosed with depression this year and many more will go under diagnosed and therefore untreated.

But, what I do know about from first hand experience, is fatigue. For me, fatigue is probably the biggest risk for away workers like me and something that needs to be pro-actively managed. From what I have researched on fatigue, there seems to be a direct correlation between increased levels of fatigue and clinically diagnosed depression.

In fact, some studies have shown that patients suffering from fatigue are three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression. So..by some kind of rational reasoning; if we can effectively manage our fatigue levels, there is a good chance of limiting the onset or effects of depression?

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Safe Work Australia defines fatigue as “a state of mental and / physical exhaustion that reduces a person’s ability to perform work safely and effectively”. In my line of work, as with most others, the key word here is SAFELY.

I work on a Mega Project. My team works in construction, commissioning and live operational areas and the hazards that exist in our everyday work environment are extreme and varied. Stuff like:

  • Simultaneous Operations: a dynamic mix of large construction, live commissioning and operational plant and process
  • 24 hr schedules
  • Very large and heavy machinery constantly moving around site…moving other large equipment around site
  • Energised High Voltage equipment, high pressure gas / water, live chemical / oil lines and many other process elements
  • Work crews constantly working overhead…at great heights with heavy objects
  • Extremes in weather and site temperatures
  • New to site / new to the industry employees
  • Countless slip / trip / fall obstacles
  • A constantly evolving, changing and extremely challenging work environment.

Given all the above, safety needs to be at the fore front of everyone’s mind and all hazards on site need to be effectively managed. But, when fatigue effects this commitment to safety, many people’s lives can be placed in danger. It could be as easy as forgetting to complete a checklist, overlooking putting a tool in a pouch at the top of a 30 metre scaffold or forgetting to put on your safety glasses on.

All of which are part of everyday work and all can be disregarded by a fatigued mind…and can result and serious and irreversible personal injury.

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Fatigue management is a big deal for our team leadership and is taken very seriously. I believe that it is not only for the sake of safety and effectiveness in the workplace that one’s fatigue needs to be managed. When we go home to our families and friends, we want to enjoy our time off.

If we arrive home fatigued after working away for a period of time, it can limit our ability to enjoy the fruits of our hard work. We all want to enjoy the time off with the kids, with the partner, family and friends. We don’t want to spend a couple of days getting over the effects of an exhausting trip away working.

Realistically, if we arrive home overly fatigued, we can place our loved ones in danger also. Most of us will drive. Some will use power tools, lawn mowers, edge trimmers; even work at heights on ladders etc. One error in judgement due to fatigue and those around us are placed in the line of fire.

Take me for example. I am a single father of three rambunctious little wee mees who just want to spend 9 days running, playing, laughing and loving the world with their Dad. It takes a lot of energy but I do pride myself of being one of those Dads who can keep up.

Those close to me always say “you need to go back to work for a rest!!”. But this time is my rest. This is how I unwind. One of the things I love about my job is the unhindered time I get with my kids…and is why I consciously manage my fatigue while away; especially in that last week before I come home.

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When I am home, I am busy but try not to be frantic. My time is usually 75% accounted for before I arrive home but I know I can’t over do it; this just leads to frustration, anxiety…and fatigue.

I also make a conscious plan to come home as refreshed as possible for my break. We are constantly driving up and down the coast, going on play dates and the kids are always helping me around the house. One lapse in concentration in this time is un-thinkable.

So, this then begs the question, “so what about travelling back to work fatigued?” Going back to work as free from fatigue as possible is just as important as it is coming home. Not only my livelihood, but that of many others relies on my presence of mind while at work. This applies to any job that requires a decision making process to be made by a clear head.

Also, working away is exhausting; and in turn, fatiguing. If we return with excessive levels of fatigue, it can make coping with the fatigue hazards of a normal roster just that little bit harder…not to mention the hazards that come from left field; magnifying the effects of being away from home!

So, what makes me fatigued? How do I manage it? Writing this blog, I have tried to narrow down to a top 5 or something that would attract your attention in the title. But you know, there are so many small little contributing factors in my day to day job, and FIFO life in general, that it was hard to settle on a few.

So, in true management fashion, I’ve turned my thought processes into and diagram. So with the aid of some airport coffee shop crayons, here is my attempt to visually display my fatigue management strategy…as briefly as possible.

One Minute Closer

This is by no means an expert’s guide to fatigue management. It is purely me trying to put some tangibility to something we all need to do daily but I guess never really think about. This process will change from person to person and so will the fatigue hazards.

Also, factors such as length of time away, length of break at home, tolerance level of fatigue and exposure to various fatigue hazards will also vary from person to person, day to day, trip away to trip away. We are all different and will all have different coping strategies and actions plans.

I’m sure there is so much input from other workers on this subject. I’d love to hear it and share it in an effort to share the knowledge about coping with the rigours of working away.

As I mentioned above, if we can help just one person manage their fatigue to a point that mitigates depression, then we have all done a wonderful thing.

Don’t let fatigue management be the old cracked step in your workplace ladder. Work to strengthen it so it supports your weight and lets you move closer to the top…and not break under the pressure and send you falling to the ground.

And remember, the one person who is ultimately responsible for your fatigue is…YOU.

Until the next instalment; keep safe and stay connected!

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