Logo de la chaire d'enseignement et de recherche emlyon et Carbone 4

Mental health in SMEs- VSBs Executive Directors

The world of SMEs and VSBs is characterized by the central position of their directors in parallel with the absence of operational managers (Human Resources manager, Head of Security & Prevention...). That is why, the question of mental health falls back onto directors, for themselves as well as for their staff, to develop a sometimes lengthy, but consistent and integrated project.
This research program will explore mental health in directors, its representations and consequences, in the world of SMEs and VSBs, directors who, for a given time, are in charge of organizing their communication and their system, of determining what is relevant or not, and who make it possible or discourage organizational and innovative practices in terms of mental health.

About the chair

Mental health at work is an important issue for economic actors: the companies at stake, the State, but also insurers and pension funds. Some lines of actions are still under-developed, mainly regarding mental health for staff and executives, but also prevention. For instance:

  • Executives' mental health may directly jeopardize the survival of their small companies (SMEs - VSBs).
  • Less visible, staff's mental health may have significant consequences on productivity (absences or poor focus).

The first two examples are interdependent, as depression and aggressive behaviors are somewhat contagious, and can cause adverse effects on working together and corporate culture.

  • Mental health is often stigmatized and getting help or a treatment can be perceived as a weakness in a competitive, managerial and executive environment.
  • Prevention is often seen as a sure-cost in the present for an uncertain-benefit in the future, which does not encourage companies in resorting to it.
  • Mental health prevention is more abstract than physical health prevention, reinforcing the risk of low prevention.

This chair will explore mental health as a means to organize different dialogs, different practices, different strategies in HR management, rather than a mere psychiatric concept.


“The objective is to better address the tension there is between mental health and mental suffering of executive directors. In such a professional environment where there is no room for weaknesses, the issue of mental health impairment, professional exhaustion, mental disorders, burn-outs if not suicide risk, is important humanly, but also in terms of organizational and economic impact. We want to build a warning and monitoring process, a diagnostic tool to allow executive directors, healthcare givers and social protection organizations to come out of the denial state they are in, and reinforce prevention for a long-lasting mental health in executive directors.”


“Partnering with Malakoff Humanis will give us the means to study in depth and under many angles, the issue of mental health of those who play a key role in the economic fabric of our country: the executive directors of SMEs and VSBs. This is a population who, by accepting to take risks, allows economic growth and provides employment. This risk-taking can be done at the expense of their own well-being. There are three major questions which we will help address, I hope: Firstly, what are the elements which affect mental health in French entrepreneurs? Secondly, what kind of prevention is effective? And lastly, if I may: What does it feel like to have a relaxed boss?”


The research chair will combine quantitative and experimental studies with qualitative and more fundamental studies. This diversity will allow us to maximize both thematic synergies and method complementarity.
In its construction, the chair will thereby pair method innovation and subjects with powerful societal and economical outreach. The objective is to provide a wide range of deliverables, in their nature and their temporality.

About Malakoff Humanis

Major actor in social protection, Malakoff Humanis was created in January 2019 from the merger of the Malakoff Médéric and Humanis groups. With €8.2 billion in equity capital, more than 370,000 corporate customers and 10 million people protected (policyholders and beneficiaries), Malakoff Humanis has a 15% share of the collective insurance market.
As part of the management of the Agirc-Arrco supplementary pension, the Group pays €38.6 billion in benefits to more than 6 million beneficiaries, and collects contributions from nearly 600,000 companies and 7,2 million contributors.
Malakoff Humanis is a solidarity-based, mutual, non-profit company that puts its performance at the service of social utility: in 2022, the Group invested €219 million in supporting people in situations of social fragility.


“We know that constant pressure, complex challenges and greater responsibilities can have a deep impact on mental well-being. That is why we have decided to partner with emlyon, a state-of-the-art institution in terms of research on health and well-being at work, to conduct research works and develop concrete resources aiming at supporting mentally fragile executive directors. Directors with a better mental health, just like employees, provide higher performance, are more creative and more resilient. Paying attention to what they have to say and supporting them is necessary for all.”


Olivier BACHELARD, professeur

Olivier Bachelard

Professor at emlyon business school

Olivier Bachelard is a professor at emlyon business school, in charge of the double degree Research Studies in Management with the IAE of Lyon, following a career as teacher researcher, then as Campus Director in Saint-Etienne, as Director of Continued Education Programs at the École Nationale Supérieure de la Sécurité Sociale (EN3S) and Assistant Director at the ESC Saint-Etienne. In 2007, he founded and conducted the chair: HR management, Safety and Security at work, in partnership with the Casino Group and AG2R. Occupational psychologist, Doctor, holder of the certification to conduct research on management sciences, his works explore human resources management and occupational health. He is also President of the International Institute on Social Audit.

Aurélien BAILLON | Chaire Malakoff-Humanis | emlyon

Aurélien Baillon

Professor at emlyon business school

Aurélien Baillon is a professor at emlyon business school (after a 15-year career at the Erasmus University Rotterdam), a researcher at the GATE, a behavioral economist specializing in human behaviors when faced with uncertainty and its applications to health and prevention issues. For more than ten years now, he has supervised twelve thesis projects and contributed to wide-range international field experiences (digital prevention for SMEs in the Netherlands, health insurance acceptance in the Philippines, prevention of cardiovascular diseases in the Philippines). Associate editor in the Management Science journal and the Economic Journal, coordinator-editor for the Theory and Decision journal. Familiar with interdisciplinary researches, he was published in more than twenty different scientific journals including some of the most prestigious ones (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, American Economic Review, Management Science, Psychological Science…).
He was also granted research scholarships by the European Research Council and the Dutch research organization NWO (for a total amount of €2,5 million between 2010 and 2020).

Stephanie Koutny | Malakoff-Humanis | emlyon

Stephanie Koutny

Doctoral student

With an international training specializing in cultural management, Stéphanie's track was marked by managing logistical operations, coordinating major events and finding innovative solutions. After 7 years on the job market, last year she took the Master II Etudes et Recherches en Management. This Master's led her to doctoral research as she is now conducting a thesis under the supervision of Olivier Bachelard and Didier Vinot, at the Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3, focused on the new research chair of emlyon and Malakoff Humanis – Mental Health in Executives

Farnaz Farzam | Chaire Malakoff-Humanis | emlyon

Farnaz Farzam

Doctoral student

Looking enthusiastically forward to improving efficiency and innovation in the workplace and within a wider range of commercial contexts, she started her academic track in this domain with an MSc in Global Trade. For further competence diversity, she also took an MSc in Digital Marketing and Data Sciences. Her experiences nurtured her curiosity for opportunities and challenges met by organizations, pushing her to further develop her knowledge and her contributions in this domain. She is particularly interested in organizational design, well-being at work and innovative management. Her current research works explore well-being and mental health at work.

Anne-Sophie Godon-Rensonnet  Directrice des Services de Malakoff Humanis | emlyon

Anne-Sophie Godon-Rensonnet

Director of Malakoff Humanis Services

She graduated from emlyon business school, then held responsibilities at Andersen, and later on at the Institut Pasteur, where she founded and directed two companies, before joining the social protection group Malakoff Médéric, turned into Malakoff Humanis on January 1st, 2019. A firm believer that the value and performance of companies depend on the attention paid to the men and women who make them up, for over ten years now, she has been advocating for an ambitious study and research policy in this domain. In 2017, she contributed to the creation of the Comptoir de la nouvelle entreprise, a media created by Malakoff Humanis to anticipate and decipher the major human trends at work. She has been drawing on these works to build and roll out for the Group customers - companies, staff and professional branches - a service strategy addressing social performance issues. In addition, she is associate professor at the Cnam.

Quentin Trillaud  Directeur du programme Santé et Qualité de vie au travail de Malakoff Humanis

Quentin Trillaud

Director of the program Health and Quality of Life at Work by Malakoff Humanis

With a double Master's in Public Health and in Business Management, and with various experiences in university hospitals, clinics and companies, as such, Quentin made use of this double competence. Since April 2022, he has been directing a program about occupational health aiming at addressing the new issues of Malakoff Humanis customer companies. The research projects he has been conducting have raised subjects rarely explored but which have nonetheless a strong social and societal impact including executives' mental health.


Partenariats - emlyon

Ludivine Toutounji
Corporate partnerships