Two unique features of the labour model in Australia—introduced in the 1980s with the surge of the fuel, mining, mechanical, and geological sectors—are the FIFO job and the DIDO job. FIFO stands for “fly-in, fly-out” while DIDO stands for “drive-in, drive-out.” But both pertain to long-distance, often short-term engagements at a remote working site (such as a mine or faraway factory) that follow a “swing” interval of two weeks on shift, and one week back at home with family.
Over the years, both FIFO and DIDO options have broadened in terms of opportunities available, amenities provided, and working conditions followed. But if you are part of the skilled labour sector and are choosing between DIDO and FIFO jobs in Australia, you may need to weigh the consequences.
Here’s a short treatise on the differences between FIFO and DIDO, what would make one type of engagement preferable over the other—and some important tips to make it all work out for your health, wellbeing, career, and family life.
FIFO vs. DIDO: A Question of Travel Time, Distance, and More
The most obvious difference between FIFO and DIDO are the modes of travel listed in their nomenclature. These also determine the distance between the worker’s point of origin and their work site, how much time is typically spent at home versus at work, and how much monetary compensation they can glean from the engagement.
FIFO workers travel by plane to their work site, and the sheer distance away from home requires them to set down nearby for the work shift of their swing. Luckily, in many cases, the contractor provides FIFO workers with accommodation and regular meals. Many townships near such work sites have also evolved into “FIFO towns” of their own accord, and entire communities now exist to supplement FIFO workers with the healthcare, recreation, and amenities they need while they’re on shift.
On the other hand, DIDO jobs entail site work that may be within driving distance to a worker’s home. To get to the site, a DIDO worker must either drive or commute on their own. This everyday commute is a point of contention for many swing workers. Some may find the routine to be tiring, repetitive, and cumbersome; the energy spent commuting might be better allotted to resting before doing one’s assigned work. But on the flip side, DIDO workers may feel reassured that home is at least a little more accessible in case of emergency.
Monetary compensation may also factor into the decision. Though it depends on the industry, position, and level of experience, most FIFO jobs pay more than DIDO jobs, and the competition is stiffer with regard to FIFO openings. Contractors make up for the time a FIFO worker spends away from home with lodging, services, and concentration on FIFO workers’ needs. But of course, there are tradeoffs to this seemingly comfortable and focused routine—including overlooked threats to one’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
Fly-In or Drive-In, Are You Ready for the Challenge?
Whether you choose long-distance swing work on a FIFO basis or on a DIDO basis, there are some things you need to keep in perspective. The type of engagement you choose has both its pros and its cons, and what might work for one family situation may cause strain on another.
Don’t discount the effect that a FIFO or DIDO job might have on your health. Long drives, extended hours on site, and the temptation to binge-eat or drink a lot of alcohol may take a toll on your physical strength, your immunity to sickness, and your sleeping patterns. You may want to weigh the decision to go FIFO or DIDO with your doctor; obtain clearance from them before you say yes to either engagement.
In addition, be committed to staying in touch with your partner and/or your children, because the time away from them could affect your relationships. Both FIFO and DIDO workers are susceptible to experiences of loneliness, homesickness, burnout, or “fear of missing out” (FOMO). Whatever arrangement you choose, think about how such a decision factors into the betterment of your personal and social life.
Conclusion: Deciding What’s Best for YOU
The best ways to ensure that a FIFO or a DIDO engagement will turn out favourable for you are:
Recognising what kind of travel is feasible for you and your family;
Settling on the kind of work you want to do, and for which industry;
Making the best of your chosen work schedule, and;
Maintaining a balance between your career, your personal life, and your home life.
The FIFO and DIDO sectors are both changing for the better. Many companies have geared their efforts toward specialised HR measures for FIFOs and DIDOs, have campaigned for mental health and against alcoholism, and have instituted policies that are supportive to Australian families. Suffice to say, it is a good time to explore FIFO or DIDO—and to find fulfilling career opportunities outside one’s zone of comfort.