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Mental health support ‘vital’ for project managers returning to work

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As more people start to return to the workplace, a new survey by Association for Project Management (APM), reveals the majority of project professionals say their main project is causing them stress, with many expecting more disruption to projects due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The survey of project professionals, carried out for APM by research company Censuswide, ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020), discovered that over 63 per cent of respondents are feeling stressed due to issues relating to their main project. The key factors causing this include:

  • poor work-life balance (cited by 40 per cent of respondents)
  • unrealistic expectations (cited by 32 per cent)
  • having too much to do (cited by 36.5 per cent).

The survey also reveals that over one quarter (27.6 per cent) don’t think their workplace is doing enough to support the mental health and wellbeing of those responsible for managing and delivering projects – across industry sectors.

Dr Clara Cheung, lecturer in project management at the University of Manchester, and author of ‘The Wellbeing of Project Professionalsreport sponsored by APM, calls on employers to help improve support for project professionals in the workplace:

She said: “APM’s latest survey reveals that project professionals experience high levels of stress in the workplace due to the often frenetic, fast paced and dynamic nature of project-based work. The recent impact of the pandemic including the lockdown period might also have increased the risk of their project managers to have mental health problems, such as anxiety, burnout, depression, social isolation and fear of unemployment. Under these circumstances, it’s vital that employers review the mental health support mechanisms provided for staff and how these can be improved upon.

“This could include reminding staff of support already in place or looking at the introduction of resilience-training that focuses on post-traumatic growth, wellness action plans, mental health first aiders and access to support from a confidential counselling helpline.”

As the chartered body for the project profession, APM is committed to supporting and helping the project community, and for individuals who are feeling a strain on their mental health, has provided a series of helpful tips:

  • Keep up professional development – can benefit from refreshing their skills and boosting their knowledge. APM has recently launched a series of online resources to help support those working in project roles. This includes moving its qualifications online and its massive open online course (MOOC) for project practitioners, delivered in partnership with the Open University.
  • Be ready for new opportunities – be sure to keep LinkedIn profiles and CVs up to date, and to keep in touch with online contacts.
  • Keep connected – although it may not be possible to have physical contact with those outside the immediate household, staying in touch with colleagues, friends, and loved ones via phone, video calling or social media can help combat loneliness and isolation. APM has just launched the APM Hub, a new online community designed exclusively for individual members of APM.
  • Maintain a routine – having a routine can be beneficial for mental wellbeing.
  • Make time for self-care – the current uncertainty can affect emotional wellbeing. It’s also possible to feel isolated as a result of the guidelines on social distancing. Time should be reserved for activities that promote health and happiness.



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