Mental Wellbeing and Project Management: How to improve project team members’ mental health

A good leader knows that employees and team members who are struggling to cope are unable to perform to their best ability. When it comes to projects that are long and complex with a variety of stages, ensuring the team is coping with the stress of the work is essential.

 In this article we will discuss how to identify mental health issues, as well as eight ways managers can support employees’ mental health.

Identifying mental health issues at work

Fostering an open environment and encouraging people to disclose mental health worries is always beneficial but the signs that someone is struggling are often more subtle. If you notice that an employee isn’t engaging with colleagues as much as they normally would or a worker seems subdued, it could be a sign that they’re dealing with mental health issues.

Similarly, increased irritability, a rapid change between high and low moods or a deterioration in the quality of their work, can be an indicator that someone is battling mental health problems. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that project managers can support employees’ mental well-being, such as:

1. Removing barriers to communication

When you identify barriers of communication, you can begin to break them down and empower employees to voice any concerns they have regarding their health. There are typically five barriers to communication within a company setting:

  • Language
  • Cultural diversity
  • Gender differences
  • Status differences
  • Physical separation

If your team has switched to remote working, for example, physical separation could make it difficult for employees to disclose mental health concerns. You can break down this barrier by having regular remote one-to-one meetings and/or hosting routine face-to-face meetings so that you can check in with your team. 

2. Monitor workloads

Even the most resilient employees can struggle to cope if their workload becomes unmanageable and companies can limit the impact on staff by ensuring people aren’t expected to take on too much. Fortunately, project management planning and control means that experienced project managers are adept at preparing in advance and mapping out how a project’s activities will be distributed throughout a team or department. By using planning techniques to keep workloads manageable, you can prevent workers from succumbing to excess stress or burnout. 

3. Increase adaptability

Adaptability is a highly valued trait, yet it’s often overlooked. When individuals can easily adapt to changing environments, they’re able to deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) without letting it have a negative impact on their well-being or their work.

However, adaptability can be learned, and employees can benefit from being shown how to be more adaptable at work. Encouraging staff to self-regulate and empowering them to make decisions goes hand-in-hand with promoting adaptability but using change control processes to respond to evolving circumstances can be advantageous too. 

4. Invest in training

When people feel out of their depth or unsupported, it can lead to unwanted mental health symptoms, such as anxiety. Conversely, training your employees adequately and providing them with the resources they need can boost their confidence and enable them to excel. 

This is one reason why professional training, such as the APM PFQ, PMQ or PPQ, can be so beneficial for professionals working within the project management industry. With the theoretical knowledge and practical skills required to deliver enhanced project management, employees are better able to perform and are more confident in the workplace. 

5. Encourage a healthy work-Life balance

Building a career is an important element of a person’s life, but it shouldn’t become their only priority. To flourish at work, people need to have a fulfilling life outside of the office and encouraging a healthy work-life balance can help them to achieve this. 

Providing employees with flexibility when it’s most needed can be an easy way to facilitate a better work-life balance, for example. Similarly, implementing strategies that enable workers to ‘switch off’, such as not sending emails after business hours, helps to ensure that employees are able to focus on other areas of their lives too. 

6. Learn from employees

If you want to know how you can improve project team members’ mental health – ask them! Getting feedback from your team can be invaluable, particularly when it comes to something as sensitive as their mental well-being. 

While some colleagues may be comfortable talking openly about their experiences, others may be worried about disclosing too much. To ensure you get honest and useful feedback, consider using anonymous surveys to find out what employees need from you and how you can provide meaningful support. 

7. Model healthy behaviour

Telling your team one thing and then acting in the opposite way sends a mixed message and can lead to uncertainty. If you tell your staff to adopt a healthy work-life balance and then spend 14 hours a day in the office, for example, employees won’t know whether to follow your instructions or your example. 

If you want your team to take care of their mental well-being, you need to model healthy behaviour yourself. When self-care is modelled by leaders and managers, other employees will adopt healthier behaviours too. 

8. Build a supportive culture

Your company’s culture has a significant impact on employees’ well-being and taking steps to enhance it will have a trickle-down effect on staff morale and health. When a company actively seeks to build a supportive culture and a caring environment, for example, employees tend to feel more comfortable sharing their concerns or health worries. 

Furthermore, staff will feel more able to raise professional issues or to ask for assistance when they need it. This alone can alleviate stress and enable individuals to perform at their best. 

Prioritising mental well-being at work

As mental health awareness grows, now is the perfect time to address employees’ mental well-being and implement new strategies to take care of your team. At Provek we understand the importance of mental health wellbeing in the workplace. Knowing this we have developed a training program for Project Managers. The program is designed to assist Project Managers with their mental health and therefore improve the entire team’s mental health. Delivering optimised project outcomes in the process. 

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