The cost of time-critical projects on project team health – and how to reduce risks

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.

A project manager needs to head a healthy project team in order to get the job done. How can they keep an eye on the clock and their staff stress levels?

A company has a duty of care to the staff it employs so it is important for managers to promote a healthy work-life balance where overtime is optional or kept to a minimum even when a project is falling behind schedule. Project management training encourages effective project management with a focus on time management so that this scenario rarely happens. However, some projects are especially time-critical; either from the outset or there could be a situation where the unexpected happens and a deadline is moved forward.

When the cry is put out for ‘all hands on deck’ and a pick up in the pace of work is required – stress levels often increase to match. If the stress gets too much then the project team health may begin to suffer which could lead to staff absences, people handing in their notice and an overall decrease in productivity which could ironically lead to time becoming even more critical and a vicious circle ensues!

How to reduce the impact

Here are 5 suggestions on how to reduce the risks of time critical projects on project team health and break that vicious circle:

project team health
  • Time is an asset and spent unwisely reflects a lack of professionalism and focus and can negatively impact on staff and business reputation. It is important therefore to allocate time as you would a budget – with true care and consideration as to how it can be used in the most effective way by your team. Another way of spending and learning how to spend time effectively is to consider attending project management courses.
  • Work smarter not harder. Procrastination is a surefire way to increase general stress levels and risk your project team’s health as well as the health of your project! Ensure tasks are completed in order of time urgency and priority and lead by example.
  • Always make time for break-times and encourage staff to take their usual lunch breaks. If you feel your team is becoming too strung out then consider booking a therapist to carry out mini office-chair massages to help relax tense bodies and refresh tired minds. This will have the effect of reducing stress whilst simultaneously increasing productivity.
  • Cut off distractions! Staff may feel it relaxes them by being allowed to check their social media or chat whilst they work but these perks can actually have the opposite effect. Trying to multi task can cost 3 hours a day and actually increase stress levels.
  • Match highest staff productivity to highest work priority. Some staff will feel more alert in the morning but some will work more effectively in the afternoon. Matching work to individual staff productivity cycles will help you get the best from your team and keep stress levels lowered too.
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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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