The Importance of Mental Well-being

The Importance of Mental Well-being

Agora #89
Pages 36 - 38

The Importance of Mental Well-being in the Project Economy

Mental well-being is a topic we don’t discuss enough in the world of projects and project management.

Experts say that the prevalence of mental illness has reached an all-time high in the United States, even prompting the White House to develop a strategy to address the issue. Depression has become increasingly common since the pandemic’s beginning, affecting one out of every three Americans. Many people left their jobs because they had burnt out and became overwhelmed, prompting the Great Resignation.

In this new world driven by change, Project leaders and sponsors must take a proactive approach to mental health issues within their projects.

I believe that one of the primary triggers of the Great Resignation is the rise of the Project Economy. It is not the operational work that generates stress and leads to burnout; it is the exponential growth of projects and project work. Working on a highly demanding project can be super stressful, and if performance is prioritized versus people aspects, it can hurt people’s well-being. Working on many different projects simultaneously is even more dangerous, which has happened in many organizations. Employees have been asked to contribute to more and more projects while not removing them from other duties.

Mental Wellbeing in Projects

Mental health and well-being is an essential topic for all professionals but can be incredibly challenging for those working in fast-paced, collaborative environments. As a result, project teams are under increasing pressure to support their colleagues to reduce the risk of stress and burnout. If you have worked on projects before, you will know that everything revolves around time, precisely the time allocated to tasks and meetings. These strict time constraints mean that individual team members must focus on getting things done as quickly as possible to prevent scope creep by keeping work streams manageable. But how does this impact your mental health? In this post, we’ll explore four ways that working on projects can have a negative impact on your ability to manage your mental well-being.

Constant change and pressure to deliver

Project work is synonymous with constant change and pressure to deliver. This can be traced back to the client-driven nature of projects. If clients aren’t happy with the work, they can request changes. If these changes aren’t actioned promptly, the project could fail, and the client could walk away—this pressure to deliver means that time constraints are paramount. As a result, project teams often have their work broken down into smaller chunks, making it challenging to deliver complete and coherent outcomes. The smaller chunks of work also mean that tasks are likely to be more intense and time-consuming than if the same work was done on a longer-term basis. As you work towards your deliverables, you may find that you’re constantly multi-tasking and rushing around, trying to get things done. This can place considerable stress on your mental well-being, particularly if you’re over-committing or working with an aggressive shift pattern.

Lack of control over your work and environment

On many projects, you will likely have very little control over what you do, when, and with whom you do it. This lack of control can make managing your energy levels and work-life balance difficult. For example, you may be required to work a shift pattern that doesn’t suit your personal life, or you may be expected to work with people who don’t align with your working style. To mitigate the negative impact of a lack of control, you must have a few simple self-management strategies up your sleeve. For example, you could use a productivity app to track how much time you spend on each task and create virtual boundaries between your work and non-work activities.

Culture of hurry and busyness

The culture of hurry and busyness that’s endemic in project work can cause you to feel as though you always have ten things to do at once. This can be highly stressful and lead to feelings of being overwhelmed. As such, it can be challenging to cope with this level of busyness and remain mentally healthy. As a project manager, you could demand that team members slow down and be more mindful of how they work. Alternatively, you could implement some simple strategies to help you manage the amount of work you must do. One strategy is to use a to-do list to track your tasks, so you can see what needs to be done and when. You could also employ time management techniques such as the Pomodoro method to help you stay focused.

Conflicting demands on your time

As a project team member, various stakeholders will likely pull you in different directions. This can create conflicting demands on your time, making it challenging to stay focused and productive. To mitigate the negative impact of conflicting demands, try to be clear about your availability with team members and stakeholders. This will help you avoid feeling over-stretched and frustrated. It’s also helpful to employ some time management strategies to ensure you’re spending your time effectively. For example, you could use online productivity software to manage your tasks and projects. Alternatively, you could use a method like the Pomodoro Technique, where you work in focused bursts with breaks.


Project work can be challenging for your mental health. Constant change, a lack of control, a culture of hurry and busyness, and conflicting demands on your time can all be stressful and challenging to navigate. It’s essential to be aware of how these factors might impact your mental health so that you can take the necessary steps to manage them.

Antonio Nieto Rodriguez

About this Author

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez is the author of the Harvard Business Review Project Management Handbook and five other books. His research and global impact have been recognized by Thinkers50. Fellow and Former Chairman of the Project Management Institute, he is the founder of Projects&Co and the Strategy Implementation Institute. Born in Madrid, Spain, and educated in Germany, Mexico, Italy, and the United States, Antonio is fluent in five languages. He has an MBA from London Business School.