Recent insights from TELUS Health’s monthly Mental Health Index sheds light on an interesting correlation between collaboration at work and mental health. TELUS Health conducted an online survey involving 5,000 U.S. workers, assigning mental health index scores based on respondents’ collaboration preferences. “The Mental Health Index is based on a response scoring system that then turns individual responses into point values. Higher point values are associated with better mental health and less mental health risk. Scores between 0 to 49 correspond with distress levels, scores between 50 to 79 correspond with strain levels and scores between 80 to 100 correspond with optimal levels of mental health.” They also assigned sub-scores for topics such as depression, anxiety, and isolation. The findings reveal that workers who engage in collaboration at work experience fewer mental health challenges compared to those who prefer to work alone.
Rising Mental Health Risks
As the world grappled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the toll on mental health became a pressing concern for employers. While it appears that the situation is slowly improving, a significant number of workers still face heightened mental health risks. According to the Mental Health Index report, 22% of U.S. employees fall into the high-risk category for mental health issues. This percentage has decreased from the peak of the pandemic, but it still surpasses pre-pandemic levels of 14%. Employees with moderate mental health risk and low mental health risk sit at 42% and 36% respectively. These findings highlight the ongoing challenges faced by employees and the need for proactive support.
The Power of Regular Collaboration
The survey showed a significant correlation between collaboration and mental health. Based on the responses 85% of workers collaborate “some” or “all the time”. Among all the respondents, 37% indicated that they collaborate with their coworkers “all the time”, resulting in the highest mental health scores of 72.9. This suggests that constant collaboration with colleagues contributes to improved mental well-being.
But it is not just collaboration that matters, it’s the overall experience. Workers were asked to describe their collaboration experiences as part of the survey. Nearly four in five (79%) described a positive experience collaborating with co-workers. This group has the highest mental health score nearly 24 points higher than workers reporting a negative experience and three points higher than the national average. Three percent described having a negative experience collaborating with co-workers. The mental health score of this group (49.8) is more than 21 points lower than the national average.
Solitude Takes a Toll
Employees who preferred working alone “most of the time” had a low mental health index score of 66.7. This group has the lowest mental health score, more than eight points lower than workers who would not prefer to work on tasks alone and more than four points below the national average Additionally, the mental health index score for the 15% of the workers who said they don’t collaborate at all, was also below the national average at 67.8. Anxiety, isolation, and work productivity have been the lowest mental health sub-scores for 13 consecutive months.
As public health officials recognize loneliness and isolation as a public health threat, the study corroborates their concerns. Isolation emerged as a key driver of mental health issues among employees. Isolation scores were the worst among employees who would prefer to work alone most of the time, nearly 12 points lower than employees who would not prefer to work alone. The results indicate that relying on solitude can impact employees’ mental health. Subsequently, lawmakers have been recently calling for policy changes that would help create more robust support systems for those people experiencing isolation.
A Call to Action
“Whether the issue is conflict or collaboration, it is clear that there is a strong connection between our mental health and our relationships with others. Positive collaboration gives us much more than an accomplishment of a task. It also supports a sense of belonging, feeling of support, and shared purpose, all of which promote positive mental health and wellbeing. Collaboration does not always happen the way one would hope, and in some cases working together can lead to conflict. Managers can be trained on how to foster psychologically safe workplaces, which is a foundation of healthy collaboration, and should also receive support for their own mental health and wellbeing.” – Paula Allen, TELUS Health Global Leader, Research & Client
The survey results serve as a clear call to action for employers. It is evident that the pandemic has heightened stress levels and sensitized a significant portion of the workforce to workplace challenges and conflicts. To address these issues effectively, organizations must take a two-fold approach. Firstly, companies must provide easier access to mental health care and support for their employees. This can include employee assistance programs and initiatives that prioritize individual well-being. By removing barriers and fostering a culture of support, employers can help employees seek the help they need.
The second aspect involves redesigning the workplace environment to mitigate mental health risks and combat isolation. Employers must prioritize creating safe and connected spaces that promote collaboration at work and recognition. Employees should feel a sense of belonging and know that their well-being is valued. By investing in these aspects, organizations can reap significant returns in terms of employee productivity and happiness.