INSERM Occitanie Méditerranée Delegation

Analyzing the experience of the pandemic to stimulate a dialogue on new work modes

INSERM Occitanie Méditerranée Delegation
August 2020 to October 2020
Regional Directorate Occitanie Méditerranée of INSERM

“After the COVID-19 crisis, we wanted to engage in a deeper reflection on our work modes”

The Occitanie Méditerranée delegation of INSERM employs 35 people. Like all organizations, the COVID-19 crisis disrupted work modes and human relationships profoundly, raising questions about how to envision the post-crisis era:
How was the crisis perceived by the workers? What was the impact on the meaning attributed to work? How can we leverage this event to improve work practices?

Sabrina Rety, Head of the Professional Support and Social Action Division:

“After the initial lockdown, we wanted to understand how the crisis was experienced. We aimed to allow employees to express themselves about this challenging period and provide them with insights. We also identified questions about their sense of work. The crisis prompted reflections on the desire to work differently. Our goal was to facilitate expression, reflection, and identify action points to make this event an opportunity to work differently.”

Why did the pandemic lead some people to question the meaning of work?

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic altered our ways of living, working, and envisioning the future profoundly. For some, the crisis caused a loss of bearing and difficulties in adapting. For others, it opened up an awareness that alternative ways of living and working were possible. Organizations must now accommodate these new work-related expectations, which can sometimes be quite divergent. The objective for the Occitanie Méditerranée delegation of INSERM was to assess the situation and allow employees to express their feelings and needs following the crisis.

Understanding the Experience of the Crisis to Envision the Post-Crisis Period

The main challenge here is that the experience of the crisis is diverse, and the pandemic was unprecedented and unpredictable. Before providing answers in terms of work organization, it is necessary to precisely understand everyone’s experience before proposing tailored responses.

My intervention, using the research-action approach, unfolded as follows:

Exploring Together:
The pandemic was an unprecedented event. To assess its impact, it was necessary to identify the observed and studied effects in advance. A research and literature synthesis on the experience of unforeseen events allowed us to create a targeted questionnaire that we distributed to all delegation employees.

Enlightening Through Science:
The questionnaire results were then analyzed in comparison with national crisis experience indicators. This helped identify the delegation’s strengths and their effects, as well as areas for improvement.

Co-creation with Initiators, Actors, and Users:
During the seminar day, I presented the questionnaire results and insights into the effects of the crisis on work to all delegation employees. Based on these findings, I initiated a dialogue between employees and management. The goal was to enable employees to directly express their experience of the crisis and their needs to management.

Measuring Impact and Project Efficiency:
The questionnaire results provide indicators for which there are national-level measures. These can be used to gauge changes in employees’ well-being in the months following the intervention and, if necessary, after implementing actions, fostering ongoing dialogue.


Sabrina Rety, Head of the Professional Support and Social Action Division:

“Elodie’s intervention was a resounding success with an audience demanding excellence. She quickly grasped the needs and provided concrete solutions, drawing on her expertise. Her analysis was very thorough, and her presentation was highly personable. She possesses extensive knowledge of the world of research and INSERM, which is a key asset for us. The questionnaire results, both locally and nationally, were highly appreciated. They served as valuable indicators that we later shared with INSERM headquarters.”

Why was expertise in research consulting relevant for this mission?

For this intervention to be meaningful to employees, it was essential that they felt heard, understood, and provided with reference points. Thanks to prior research on the experience of the crisis, we were able to offer employees a targeted questionnaire, thus gathering relevant data that proved to be valuable indicators.

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