WHY WELLBEING IS AT THE CORE OF APM
Caroline Brooks, HR Business Partner, Association of Project Management
Association for Project Management (APM) is the chartered body for the project profession, with over 30,000 individual members and more than 500 organisations participating in our Corporate Partnership Programme.
We have grown dramatically over the past few years. However, our focus on maintaining wellbeing has not wavered and it remains at the core of everything we do.
Embedded across the organisation is a shared passion to ensure the wellbeing of our staff and to provide our profession with the information and support it needs. This is encouraged and monitored right from the top and we focus heavily on getting it right.
What are the building blocks of wellbeing?
For our staff, positive wellbeing is about having a purpose, having clarity around their objectives and a realistic, achievable end goal that supports and contributes to our organisation’s ‘big picture’.
This is ensured by developing our managers to support each employee to identify these aspects and achieve them both in the short-term, week by week and long-term through annual reviews and appraisals.
We also actively encourage a good work/life balance. We want to see staff having time for themselves and their loved ones at the end of the day; and we support them to do this.
Of course, we all have ‘life events’: good days, down days, hard days or just days when we need a helping hand.
For those days, we provide the tools and support to help our staff get through whatever it is they are facing in a way that works for them. At APM, these include an Employee Assistance Programme (counselling and listening service), in-house mental health first aiders and, most recently, online wellbeing sessions.
We also have Instagram and other engagement channels to lessen the effects of working from home in isolation at this challenging time.
What are the benefits?
According to the World Health Organisation, depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact with an estimated cost to the global economy of US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
So, there is a link between a workforce that has a healthy sense of wellbeing and productivity. This is important for APM as the more productive we are as an organisation, the more valuable and supportive we are to our members and the wider project profession. It also helps us retain our staff and, in turn, helps them grow.
At a more personal level, these measures help employees who may be experiencing mental health issues, which is important considering 1 in 4 people experience these at some point each year, according to the NHS.
How do we support our members?
We represent and support the project profession; a profession renowned for working under pressure, often under tight constraints of time cost and quality.
With over 30,000 members from a wonderfully diverse range of backgrounds and sectors, we recognise the valuable contribution they make to society, and the importance of supporting them in every way we can, especially during the challenging period we are currently facing.
Our Golden Thread report, produced in partnership with PwC, shows that project activity contributes £156.5bn of Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy annually; about 8.9 per cent of total UK GVA.
To support the people driving this contribution, we keep our finger on the pulse. We maintain a solid connection with our members and our volunteers to understand the challenges being faced and the support materials we should be focusing on to help them overcome the next big challenge.
Our most recent survey of project professionals conducted by Censuswide on our behalf showed us that 63 per cent of respondents have experienced stress as a result of their main project, so we really must keep that support going.
To achieve this, we maintain a drum beat of support materials, research, surveys and involvement in mental health-associated days throughout the year to help raise and maintain awareness.
This is not about one-off initiatives; it’s about providing a commitment to supporting our profession continuously.
Alongside this, we support our profession through accessibility and inclusivity, promoting openness and transparency. This includes accessibility to development materials, qualifications, events and networking opportunities. We deliver many of these online now so we can ensure our members haven’t lost that connection with their peers and support networks. For many, these engagements are a vital part of their day to day activities.
The importance of listening
As mentioned, we keep our finger on the pulse for the challenges our profession faces. This helps us focus on setting topics when we go out with initiatives and it also enables us to provide more proactive support. We take the same approach with our staff.
Listening is a vital part of nurturing wellbeing and it is a key skill of being a mental health first aider too. By actively listening to our profession and our staff – collectively and as individuals - we can meet their needs and support them far better.
By listening, we can provide members and employees with access to the services, resources and support they need; either from ourselves or a trusted partner. Effective signposting is so important.
Of course, there is no endgame for our wellbeing efforts. Mental health will always affect someone at any given time. Doing all we can to support our members and their profession will remain our top priority, irrespective of how large we may grow as an organisation. Given the benefits, why would we stop?