News Release 

Inspiring leadership, resilience and new challenges: The keys to efficient work teams

A study performed by the UOC on more than 3,000 employees and 650 work teams analyses the factors that explain what makes a team efficient

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

Research News

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many parts of daily life, one of them being our work life. Research carried out by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) has studied the factors that help make efficient work teams. The explanation is multidimensional and multilevel.

"Inspiring leadership builds employees' resilience and willingness to undertake new challenges," said Pilar Ficapal Cusi, professor at the UOC's Faculty of Economics and Business and one of the authors of the study, which was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Viewed from the group and organizational perspective, "the shared vision, the team's belief in its own creative effectiveness, the ability to reflect openly about how their members connect to adapt to new circumstances and assuredness in participation are key elements that lead to effective performance," she added.

The study analysed 654 work teams, with a total of 3,190 employees, in different companies based in Spain. 57% were women and 43% were men. The group size ranged between 3 and 10 members, and the average age was around 37. The questionnaires were completed between April 2016 and December 2017.

According to Mihaela Enache Zegheru, also a professor at the UOC's Faculty of Economics and Business and another of the study's authors, together with professor Joan Torrent Sellens, said: "The results show that leadership that tends to be a source of inspiration and motivation for achieving results is essential for driving the team's perceived performance." All three are members of the UOC's i2TIC research group.

According to the research, setting realistic goals is also important for the group to function well. "The members need clearly defined and accepted goals. These goals should also be attainable but challenging and encourage a shared vision," continued Enache Zegheru.

The research also looked at companies, showing that organizations that foster collaborative work environments that stimulate creativity and innovation improve their teams' performance. In addition, organizational practices that encourage open communication and the team members' involvement in decision-making processes may contribute to triggering and developing creative potential.

The pros and cons of telecommuting

Although the questionnaires were answered before the current pandemic, the researchers draw some conclusions from their analysis and from other previous studies that may be applicable to the current situation, particularly as regards telecommuting, an option that has become more popular as a means for preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

The authors explained: "Telecommuting is effective for achieving short-term cost reductions or productivity improvements. However, it has also been shown that processes based on creativity or innovation experience greater difficulties in the distance work context."

The researchers also warned that although telecommuting has advantages such as time flexibility, reduced mobility and greater work efficiency, the constant use of technologies leads to an overabundance of information which, if it is more than the employee can effectively cope with, generates negative effects such as work overload, technostress, fatigue, and conflicts between work and home life.

Ficapal Cusi said: "Within the current work context, under severe pressure from the health crisis, it is important that the team develops mechanisms for coping with potentially stressful environments, accepting challenges and collectively developing creative and innovative ideas."

In Enache Zegheru's opinion, "the leader plays an important role here. In this context, leadership that is task-oriented but also supports and motivates the team contributes to the group's effective performance".

Employees must also feel supported by the organization. Indeed, according to the authors, "a good fit between each of the team members' abilities, expectations and needs, and an appropriate balance between work demands and work resources are essential for employees' well-being".

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This research supports the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): SDG 3 (Good health and well-being) and SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth).

Reference article

Ficapal Cusi, P.; Enache Zegheru, M.; Torrent Sellens, J. «Enhancing team performance: A multilevel model». Journal of Cleaner Production. DOI: 10.1016 / j.jclepro.2020.125158.

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The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) are helping 21st-century global societies to overcome pressing challenges by studying the interactions between ICT and human activity, with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health. Over 500 researchers and 51 research groups work among the University's seven faculties and two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu. #UOC25years

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