Regardless of the perpetrators’ motivations, for an organisation that is directly impacted, the result of a terror act is the same: often the immediate or permanent loss of employees with survivors and bereaved families needing extensive physical and mental health support throughout the recovery process.
However, terrorism is intended to create fear much further than those directly affected. It is a personal attack on our values and way of life and traumatic stress symptoms may be experienced by those who were not bereaved or injured. Workplaces can experience high levels of disruption in the days after a terror attack as communities struggle to make sense of what has happened. A general and widespread increase in stress, anxiety and depression tends to be seen.
This reduction in mental health inevitably leads to increased sickness absence but there are other less obvious effects in the workplace. Where people are focused on their own sense of safety, their cognitive function is generally impaired – meaning a deterioration in concentration, focus and decision-making skills. Changes in behaviour are common particularly the avoidance of crowded places or heightened anxiety around visiting locations that could be perceived as a target. There can be reduced motivation or even disinterest in work with some people feeling it is disrespectful to carry on with “business as usual.”
As acts of terror are predicted to become more frequent, companies and communities must become better prepared to manage the direct and indirect psychological impact.