Debunking the “Roughneck” Stereotype in the Remote Workforce
by Troy Schrenk
When it comes to remote workers in the industry energy, the stereotype of the “roughneck” is alive and well: hard-drinking, hard-living, uneducated younger men who bring vice and assorted boomtown ills in their wake. Tough, rugged, self-reliant men who don’t care about safety. But it may be rooted more in Wild West mythology than in actual demographics.
In truth, this stereotype hurts these workers and makes it easy to dismiss the very real problems they face. Understanding the real face of the mobile workforce is necessary for their well-being, and for the companies that hire them.
The truth behind the stereotype
This issue is explored in our recent white paper, “Beyond the ‘Roughneck’ Stereotype.” What’s the real face of today’s mobile workforce? A 2012 census of mobile workers in the Alberta Oil Sands region reveals a picture that’s much bigger than the stereotype:
- More than half are more than 35 years old.
- 2% are married or in common-law relationships.
- 1% are apprentices, or hold trades certificates or post-secondary degrees.
- 1% are female.
These findings challenge the limited view of mobile workers. As white paper author Angela C. Angel, MSc, notes:
The “roughneck” stereotype does not account for the vast and varied lived experiences, positive values, family-based motivations and productive goals of the large majority of mobile workers. Nor does it account for the challenges these workers face in living and working away from home.
The harmful consequences of the stereotype
The negative perception of mobile workers is a kind of self-perpetuating trap. Over-generalizing and stereotyping mobile workers means that that the root causes behind potential health issues go unaddressed or simply taken for granted.
Stress, loneliness, and exhaustion can be kept bottled up as workers feel pressure to live up to an image of tough, self-reliant masculinity. This bottled-up stress can lead to ill health effects, such as sleep deprivation, that increase the risk of accidents or mistakes or the job. It can also lead to the substance abuse, which can lead to serious safety problems, such as driving or operating machinery under the influence.
These problems affect not only the health and well-being of the workforce. The worker turnover, accidents, and low productivity all impact the projects and the companies involved. Communities have a negative view of mobile workers before they even come to town. Projects run over budget and behind schedule. Everyone involved pays a price.
Solutions through quality housing
How can employers combat these ill effects? Worker well-being can be addressed through housing that provides a better overall quality of life. Target Lodging calls this approach the Economics of Comfort®, knowing that an optimal living environment results in a more prepared workforce. Our approach includes:
- A sleep environment that helps workers stay well-rested, including high quality bedding and mattresses (our Hibernator Sleep System™).
- Nutritious, appealing dining options to keep up health and morale.
- A comfortable living environment with opportunities for relaxation and recreation, including HD TVs, fitness centers, and game tables.
- No alcohol, drugs, firearms, or cohabitation allowed on premises.
A positive, healthy living environment combats the negative effects of stress and loneliness and helps support the mobile workforce. Today’s workforce comes from a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds; high quality housing helps address their true problems. “Roughneck” stereotypes need not apply.