EFPA interviews: Ivana Sipova and Rudolf Kubik from QED

A new interview in the EFPA News Magazine informs about the progress of the H-WORK project and provide insights into the role of the different partners of the consortium. EFPA is one of the 14 partners of the H-WORK project. This time, Bruna Zani interviewed Ivana Sipova, Analyst and consultant for QED, and Rudolf Kubik, Associate Consultant for QED.

1. Can you present us your team and the role of the members in the H-Work Project?

QED is a management consultancy company based in Prague providing development programs for individuals, leaders, teams and organisations globally. We offer a unique methodology for team diagnostics and development within the H-WORK project called Sociomapping®. This tool, developed by Radvan Bahbouh – psychologist and mathematician, is grounded in long-term research on teams we have been conducting with the European Space Agency, NASA and armed forces. Our team consists of consultants, research analysts and data specialists responsible for investigating the mental health and resilience on the team level as group cohesion and team climate significantly influence resilience and well-being on the individual level.

Our team consists of 7 people. Radvan Bahbouh is the founder of QED and our supervisor. He is an associate professor in psychology and the author of our main product and research tool- sociomapping for team development (https://www.sociomapping.com). Rudolf Kubík is responsible for developing partnerships in sociomapping and for the smooth implementation of sociomapping intervention in all test sites. He provides certification training to use the tool in an ethical and standardised way. Ivana Šípová is a researcher at Charles University; she also provides interventions, works on papers and coordinates the work of the Czech team.

Dorota Lofajová and Anna Zubková are psychology students from Charles University responsible for the interventions in test sites. They keep an eye on smooth organisation, and as they are very proficient in academic work, they also help with papers and conferences. Martin Máčel is our data master, and he is also a student at Charles University with excellent skills in data analysis. He is also interested in academic work; he helps us with papers.

An integral member of the team, Martin Tušl, was in the H-WORK team from the very beginning in Bologna, where the idea was born. He worked on the project design, and after the submission, he started his PhD in Zurich. As he is very familiar with the project and most consortium members, we are delighted to have him in our team.

2. What is the role of your organization in the H-Work Project?

QED is primarily involved in the intervention part, and we provide the needs assessment, interventions, and evaluation in two Czech test sites, two Italian and one Dutch organisation. We provide team sociomapping workshops to foster group cohesion, individual coaching, mental health awareness training or Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

We also co-lead the H-WORK innovation committee to materialise the research outputs.

3. What has your team accomplished in the project so far (results)?

These days, we are finishing an intervention period in our first test site- HH Global. We have run several interventions on the individual, team, leader, and organisational levels, and currently, we analyse the first data gathered. One of the most exciting results we have so far is creating a mental health design of team sociomapping intervention. With this, we can make the team more aware of the mental health of its members and be able to shape what makes the teamwork and group healthy.

We have also created a joint intervention with HelloBetter, one of H-WORK partners. We have connected our digital team intervention with their online psychotherapy. It enables us to identify the people under excessive stress thanks to anonymous feedback in sociomapping and offer them directly the appropriate intervention—this tool we presented last year at the European Implementation Event.

4. What are you currently working on and what are the next steps?

We are continuing to develop our database by adding new data as it is collected from the sites at the different measurement time points. We are consistently contributing to the preparation of questionnaires for the new measurement time points for the different groups. As we go, we provide the data to researchers within the project, so they can analyse the data for their project deliverables and presentations. We host a fortnightly data meeting in which we and the research partners can review the status and quality of data collected.

One of the innovations implemented within the H-Work project  is the combination of HelloBetter’s therapy programs with the Sociomapping tool provided by the QED group. This combined, multi-level solution is currently implemented in three organisations within the H-Work project. For this implementation, we also translated our therapy program for the treatment of stress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic into Italian language.

5. What are your expectations regarding the outcomes of the project, after 2 years of work? Has there been a change in the initial expectations?

We expect that the project will contribute to the creation of mentally healthy workplaces. The consortium has just initiated the preparation of the H-WORK platform where many of the project’s outcomes and products will be available for practitioners, managers and employees. We want to make sure that the project continues beyond the funding period and that it will have a positive impact on mental health and well-being in the European workplaces.

6. What are currently the main obstacles for your work in general and in the project?

H-WORK is based on applied research with public organizations and business companies which is a very dynamic environment. We experienced a high fluctuation in our first test site which complicated the implementation of interventions as people were leaving, changing positions, and teams. Also, our test site was acquired by another company during the implementation period which further complicated the situation.  We have addressed this by a thorough evaluation procedures where we aim to identify and control for all the contextual influences that may impact on the effectiveness of interventions.

7. What has been and still is the impact of COVID on the work of your organization for the project?

The project has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been around since the beginning of the project. This required a lot of adaptation efforts from all the partners, especially when it comes to the implementation phase of the project.  We basically conducted all interventions in an online format which is not ideal, especially for the team-based interventions. Also, it is much more challenging to create a trusting relationship with a client through an online platform.  

On the other hand, we see in our test sites that the pandemic has also had a relatively positive impact on awareness about mental health in the companies. The topic is more discussed and both managers and employees seem to be more willing to discuss their experience.  Overall, more people experienced mental health issues during the past two years which encouraged them to take care of themselves. In the Czech Republic, there is still strong stigmatization of mental disorders and the pandemic made people more aware of the topic. So, in a way, the pandemic made it easier to promote mental health initiatives in the companies because they are more aware of the importance. 

8. What is the biggest strength of your organization in advancing the project?

It is the combination of academic background and profound experience from practice. QED team is composed of both practitioners connected to business companies and academic researchers. We cooperate with Charles University and most of our team members are psychologists. At the same time, we are in contact with the end-users of our services on a daily basis so we have a lot of experience in putting the theory into practice. As such, we are able to provide evidence-based services that are effective and easy to implement in business companies.

9. How do you think your organization and EFPA can collaborate?

EFPA’s contribution will be important during the exploitation phase of the project. It will be useful to join forces in the promotion of the platform as well as in the generation of content that is attractive and relevant to the end-users. The cooperation will be particularly important in the development of the policy recommendations for different stakeholders regarding mental health promotion.