Petroplan finds new jobs for energy industry professionals every day, with many of these placements involving global relocation for people and their families. For many in the oil, gas and energy employment market, this means ensuring a new opportunity works for their family, in the same way most of us must consider the impact of a new career challenge.
During this week of World Mental Health Day, we thought we would add to the conversation about work-life balance. It may seem unusual coming from a recruiter supporting an industry that requires frequent global relocation, however, the experience we have in this sector means we have much to say on the subject. The insights we have shared from our candidates and contractors may help if you are having a tough day away from home or if you are deciding on a role or indeed if you have someone close to you that works in this rewarding but often demanding sector.
In this article, we are looking at raising awareness of the impact on families of these economic drivers and, of course, the great career opportunities that still exist in the industry.
At Petroplan, recruiters are tuned into the motivations of candidates – as well as to the candidate’s suitability for a role in terms of skill and cultural fit. Motivations often stem from key drivers for success and happiness – with family and close relationships a key consideration. Since the downturn in 2014, industry professionals have undergone huge amounts of stress through a scarcity of career opportunities, the threat of job losses and pay cuts. Added to this is the frequent requirement to relocate for work – which can sometimes lead to people making choices that are not in their best interests at a personal level.
The questions a recruiter may ask to check that someone understands the impact on family life of relocating for work may include these:
There are many more questions related to the location, type of work and length of contract – but the fundamental question is – will you and your family be able to manage the change/your absence?
In our previous blogs about mental health, we touched on the isolation that industry professionals can feel when away from home, the pressure to quickly adjust to new teams, and the need for communication. It is essential to seek help before anxiety takes its toll, and to help others wherever possible.
I am writing this blog from first-hand experience as someone with a family member working in the sector. Many workers and their families see the mobile nature of oil and gas careers not as a sacrifice, but rather a natural part of working in the sector. Nevertheless, whether you are just starting out or a seasoned industry professional, this aspect of the job can place undue stress on those involved.
If you are on rotation or a short-term contract, it can mean less upheaval for the family if they remain resident in your country of origin. The contractor and their family must be prepared for moments when the distance can be tough, particularly for everyday decisions and special occasions. The availability of technology, even in the remotest of destinations, means it is now much easier to stay in touch with loved ones and events at home.
It can also help to agree a schedule of contact via communication platforms such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime and – cost permitting – by phone. Whatever the method, staying in touch regularly helps keep all parties in tune and can reduce the anxieties caused by being far away from loved ones.
Many mobile professionals are open to full-time relocation, with destinations such as the Middle East and South Africa popular as expatriate residential options. However, with the cost of living rising in many parts of the world, some of these options have become less attractive, as the daily lives of industry workers and their families are directly impacted by economic considerations.
Key considerations in a move overseas will typically be the standard of living presented by the location, accommodation options and the quality of local schooling and healthcare. This level of commitment to an employer and a new location should not be taken lightly. Families may also have concerns about safety and security and, of course, the transition back to their home country when the work ends.
If you and your family take this opportunity, it can be a great experience but it is important to do your homework on what to expect. Many locations offer a great expatriate network where you can share your experiences with people in the same situation; getting involved in the local community will definitely help with transition.
For the most part, a career in the energy sector is a rewarding lifestyle choice. Work with your recruiter to get the full picture before committing to a complete change – and check with your family on how it will impact them. Talking to people who have already worked and lived abroad is also a really good time investment. Many employers can put you in touch with colleagues prior to joining to help with any advice you may need, whether it is just for the professional or the whole family.
For more information on working and living abroad visit:
Written by Heather Nickson
Due to being the fifth and fourth largest producer of oil and gas respectively, Canada has been providing hundreds of thousands of jobs to people from across the globe for decades, fueling its own economy in the process. The last 3 years has seen over $65 billion taken out of Canada’s oil and gas industry due to a decline in capital investment and plummeting crude oil prices, resulting in extreme cost-cutting, mass job losses and the cancellation of dozens of projects. Sixty-five percent of oil and gas companies have reduced their staff, resulting in approximately 100,000 workers being made redundant.
Many skilled oil and gas workers have relocated abroad or to new states in search of work, not only due to redundancy, but also to the collapse of oil and gas training programs which could have provided them with the retraining for related jobs. Any new investment, whether project- or technology-related has therefore followed them. Job creation in this sector has been tight throughout Canada.
’The suicide rate in Alberta climbs 30% in wake of mass oil patch layoffs’ CBC News, December 2015
‘Saskatchewan, another energy-dependent region, has a higher rate, and it’s seen 19% more suicides this year’ The Guardian, December 2015
By the end of 2015, requests to the Calgary Distress Centre for counselling services had increased by 80% according to counsellor, David Kirby (CBC News, 2015). He claims the issues people are facing are vast, including substance abuse, financial collapse, anxiety, depression and relationship conflict. For those lucky enough to still be in employment, longer working hours are causing high levels of stress and fears that complaints will result in their lay-off too.
According to the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the oil and gas crisis in Scotland has “critically undermined rig safety, as workers fear reporting issues in case it results in job loss, causing serious health and safety implications – and there is fear a similar issue could be uncovered in the Canadian industry. As in Canada, workers are facing redundancy, shift pattern changes, wage reductions and loss of colleagues, and are being expected to take on their work.
We caught up with David Kirby recently to talk about the impact of job loss on mental health, how job loss can affect the family unit, and the work of the Calgary Distress Centre.
“In general our agency has seen about a 15% increase in service use over the past two years that we relate to the recession and impacts of it in the energy sector in Calgary. Certainly, we’ve had many more calls related to resources for emergency financial assistance to pay for rents, mortgages, utility bills, and even to put food on the table. The amount of suffering created by the recession and sector slowdown in Calgary and across our province has been unfathomable. Anecdotally, we can say that this is certainly the worst we ever seen it locally.”
Commenting on how the Distress Centre helps those facing job loss to cope, David said:
“In general we encourage people to reach out and talk to someone (i.e. our 24-hour crisis lines) when they’re feeling stressed about their future. We know that the sooner people reach out for help, the more likely the psychological impacts can be lessened. We encourage people affected by job loss to use their support system, focus on what they can control, develop an action plan for creating some positive change, and use the time to evaluate their values, priorities, and focus time and energy on self-care.
Many people find the prospect of having to ‘start over’ very much intimidating and difficult to cope with. We often encourage people to use the time to reconnect with their values and reconsider other hopes and dreams they may have had at earlier points in their lives, essentially trying to turn a negative into a positive.”
“Unless you have strong mediatory factors in place – such as good supervisors and HR support, chronic stress can be very negative, not just for the individual but also the organisation.”Margaret Crichton, Managing Director of People Factor Consultants (PFC)
Fortunately, the Canadian oil and gas industry is forecast to recover this year. Employment will grow steadily between 2017 and 2020 as new investment is placed in projects including a large two-train LNG facility in British Columbia. Market prices will increase from US$40 per barrel to US$71 with profits reaching 2010’s level of $13 billion by 2021. This is clearly positive, but because of the effects of the recent downturn, employers should put preventative measures in place and provide support for those showing signs of stress.
‘’5,200 wells are expected to be drilled across the country this year, an increase of 975 wells projected in November’’ Calgary Herald
Downturn relocations, baby-boomer retirements and technological advancements are causing an urgent need to appeal to younger workers from across the globe. With recent mental health campaigns such as Canada’s, ‘Not Myself Today’ and England’s, ‘Time To Change’ the younger generation are becoming more aware of its potential impact, explaining their greater likelihood to take part. They are also expecting a more open approach to mental health, demanding their employers account for this. Therefore, oil and gas companies should act, not only to attract new workers, but to give much needed support to their current ones.
When you’re living with mental illness, external circumstances that would normally be stressful for anybody are even more stressful. Job loss and unemployment certainly fall into that category. When faced with such a scary situation, it is more important than ever to make sure you’re using healthy coping mechanism, sticking to a routine as much as possible and staying productive, maintaining any treatment and also seeking additional help if necessary. Counseling and therapy can be beneficial in particularly difficult situations, especially as a supplement to other treatment methods and self-care.
Chelsea Ricchio, Communications Manager,Healthy Minds Canada
In recent years, there have been examples of the industry becoming more aware of mental health and its importance, Continue reading “Mental Health in the Oil & Gas Industry”