Article by Manuel Jardinaud and Emmanuelle Souffi - Social Liaisons:

Sadness, loss of motivation, need to talk... Three days after the attacks in Paris, companies must listen and show compassion towards shocked employees.

The emotion. Sadness. Pain. After the attacks in Paris, which to date have left 129 dead and more than 350 injured, firms specializing in psychological support have been overwhelmed with calls. HRDs whose teams have been hit hard. Restaurant managers whose servers fear new bursts. Administrations that had to take care of devastated Parisians...


The return to the office feels like a hangover. For those who have been affected directly or indirectly, resuming normal activity, concentrating, mobilizing one's energy on tasks that seem ridiculous, remains delicate. "An event like this necessarily impacts the life of the company", observes David Mahé, president of the cabinet Stimulus, specialized in psychosocial risks.

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The situations are diverse. The trickiest? One or more employees lost their lives at the Bataclan, rue de Charonne or near the Saint-Martin canal, in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. "Each organization has a protective dimension, it must react," said Xavier Alas Luquetas, of the specialized firm Eléas.

The role of the hierarchy then appears essential. Because this tragedy is not without consequence on the working atmosphere. "Failing to take it into account is to risk that the company is perceived as a place without consideration for individuals", he adds.

"Bringing together the work collective" is the first thing to do, according to Jean-Claude Delgènes, general manager of the firm Technologia. Allow everyone to express themselves, while setting up a comfortable corner, with coffee, drinks... "We must release the word on the bond that united, on the pain, the sadness", he adds. "Through this, bring out the reality of disappearance", continues Xavier Alas Luquetas. The fear that new tragedies will occur, in transport, public places, also prevails.  

Morbid logistics

Being alongside employees who want to go to the bedside of a victim or to a funeral means being open: “We can leave freedom by offering a day, by offering an RTT or a day of paid leave. The company must enter into a kind of morbid logistics by adapting the rules”, considers Jean-Claude Delgènes.

More generally, listening on the part of managers, and even colleagues, is essential: “You have to be vigilant about situations of withdrawal, of non-expression. Pay special attention to it,” warns Jérôme Boucher, director of operations at Psya. Because silence is twisted. “The risk is that some people suddenly decompress, hence the importance of also discussing with occupational physicians who will give us information,” says Grégoire Vitry, psychotherapist, founder of the Lact firm. Especially since these terrorist attacks are also sometimes superimposed on climates of internal tension in the company...

Hence the need for this collective speaking. Because beyond the demotivation, those who were in the "hold" and tried to cope can experience serious psychological suffering. "It is estimated that 5-10% of those indirectly affected will develop post-traumatic stress disorder. And 35-50% of those who were directly exposed. For them, the event remains in the present and fails to inscribe in the past", describes Grégoire Vitry.

Elastic time

But not too much is needed. Being too intrusive can be badly experienced. "You have to respect everyone's feelings. Going to the bottom of things yes, but with respect for emotion,” explains the founder of Eléas. This coach believes that the coffee machine remains a privileged space to feel the resonance effects of the event on everyone.

Faced with “this elastic time before real life starts up again”, in the words of David Mahé, managers can take very simple measures: delay a meeting, postpone the launch of a product, cancel a trip. “We are never close to 24 hours,” he says. For an employee too emotional to get back to work quickly, why not ask a colleague to temporarily retrieve a file?

Adapt the organization

Vis-à-vis employees hard hit, physically or psychologically, compassion is essential. "We must very early give signs of reassurance on their job, their position", insists Jean-Claude Delgènes. Say that their tasks will be taken care of by another, and that the time of care is more important. "Do not create additional anxiety and that the victim does not bear the brunt of the work", adds the founder of Technologia. The administrative follow-up, with the mutual insurance company for example, is also an essential point.

The organization of the family unit, also affected, may require a little flexibility: taking care of children who are experiencing the situation badly, caring for a loved one affected by the attacks... "You have to adapt the behavior of the company to the situation of the employee", advocates David Mahé. “While continuing to work,” he adds. The balance, especially in societies where the search for productivity is a priority, is not easy to find. But common sense and benevolence must make it possible to stop the intrusion of horror into the offices...