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The wellbeing of project professionals

Why was this research undertaken?

The awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues in societies is increasing. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s report shows the whole of Europe is struggling with the burden of mental ill health, which affects an estimated 84 million people – one in six. The cost to the UK economy is in line with the average for Europe at 4 per cent of GDP (approximately costing £94 billion per year).

Against this backdrop, project-based work has long been characterised as frenetic, fast-paced and dynamic. Project professionals typically encounter high expectations and severe pressure to deliver projects on time and within budget, and to reconcile changing expectations of scope due to dynamic factors, such as new initiatives from the project sponsor. Therefore, it is not surprising that project professionals work in a stressful environment.

This research not only aims to reflect how this work nature affects the state of wellbeing, but, more importantly, it also proposes solutions and recommendations to improve the situation.

What did the study aim to achieve?

This study led by Dr Clara Cheung (University of Manchester) alongside academics from Cape Town and Maryland University funded by APM's research fund aimed to deepen the understanding of:

  1. the current level of project professionals' workplace well-being compared to a valid benchmark of workplace well-being;
  2. the factors which support or detract from project professionals' workplace well-being; and
  3. the interventions to improve project professionals' workplace well-being.

How was the study carried out?

A survey of APM members and the wider project profession was conducted during autumn and winter 2018/19 using two psychometrically-validated scales: A Shortened Stress Evaluation Tool (ASSET) (comprising the core scales: 6 Essentials; Your Health, Psychological Well-being, and Engagement and related); and the Work-related Resilience Scale; used to measure well-being and resilience, respectively.

The findings of the current study were bench-marked against a ‘norm group’ that involved approximately 70,000 people between 2013 and 2017 from various organisations in the private and public sectors, which were collated in a database and referred to in this study as the General Working Population (GWP) 2017 norm.


This study provides four organisational level interventions which can be used to improve well-being and two at individual level:

Organisational level interventions

  1. strategy through cultivating a positive culture, implementing a Project Management Office (PMO) and developing supportive corporate policies
  2. operational planning – by integrating project management techniques into operational planning, active job design and creating consistent strategic communications programme
  3. execution – through constructive performance management and feedback along with supporting dynamic resource management
  4. continuity and growth – by building a strategic training programme, active staff development through supporting obtaining relevant qualifications and participation in professional bodies such as APM in addition to developing different career tracks

Individual level interventions

  1. active management of stress – through time management, stress management and energy management
  2. adoption of a strengths based approach

Download full report

How to cite this research
Cheung, C., et al. (2020). The Wellbeing of Project Professionals. Association for Project Management.