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Investigating stress in 2018 by John Richardson

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018!

For some of us, getting back to work will bring excitement and opportunities for the year ahead. However for others, that first journey back to work this year will have been coupled with feelings of apprehension and dread.

While work place stress and mental health issues are nothing new, they were catapulted to the front of our minds in 2017 by an increase in media coverage and awareness, and rightly so.

I would hazard a guess that every one of us has at some point suffered from undue stress at work and many of us silently deal with mental health issues on a daily basis.

Just this morning, the January issue of IOSH Magazine landed on my desk, and on the very first page editor Louis Wustemann has written about stress management and mental health issues in the workplace. His comments did not just relate to stress at work, but to how stress touches all aspects of our lives and can affect workplace performance.

At Matrix Risk Control we specialise in incident investigation, and I am sure you are thinking that we must see a lot of incidents where stress was a factor. You would be correct.

However it may surprise you to hear that stress is rarely identified as a contributing cause of incidents. The reason for this:

Nobody asks!

In interviews with those involved in incidents, investigators rarely ask whether they are or have been suffering from stress or are dealing with a metal health issue, and this is not because these investigators are incompetent.

It is very difficult and challenging to sit with someone – whether they are a colleague or a total stranger – and ask them whether they are feeling stressed, whether there is anything going on at home, whether they suffer from depression, etc. Often we feel that by asking these difficult questions, we are prying into an employees’ personal business.

Yet time and time again, it comes out much later that there were issues that we failed to identify. However by that time it is often too late. The person in question has maybe been disciplined, gone off sick, resigned or sometimes even been sacked.

With the majority of incidents – even the small ones – there is never just one cause. It is usually a combination of issues that have aligned at a particular moment in time and resulted in the incident occurring.

I am willing to bet that quite often, workplace stress or mental health is one of those issues.

Any good leader will tell you that their people make their business what it is. It is for this reason that identifying and tackling work place stress and mental health issues is absolutely our business!

So this year when you have an incident in your organisation, take this as your best opportunity to ask the right – and often difficult– questions, identify these issues and support those involved.

I wish you a happy and successful 2018.

If you want to improve your investigation skills and learn from ex-senior law enforcement professionals, Matrix Risk Control offers a number of investigation courses that can improve your performance.

Author: John Richardson

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