4 Ways to Prioritise Mental Health at Work

No matter your industry or the size of your business, mental health cannot be overlooked.

In recent years, 81% of UK workplaces have increased their focus on employee mental health.

However, with 1 in 3 employees still feeling that mental health support in their workplace is inadequate and wanting to see further support from their employers, it’s clear that things still need to change!

That’s why, in this article, we’re exploring some of the most common causes of poor mental health at work and sharing some tips to help make your work environment a positive place – for both employees and employers.

Mental health

What is mental health?

You might be thinking: “It’s pretty self-explanatory…”

But let’s go back to basics.

Mental health is the way we think and feel. It encompasses our ability to deal with life’s ups and downs.

When we enjoy good mental health, we have a sense of direction, focus and purpose in our lives. We have the energy to do things we love and the ability to cope with the challenges life throws our way.

But when we’re in a state of poor mental health, each of those things seems a lot harder.

How work can affect mental health

Writer and consultant Jessica Pryce-Jones found that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime – yes… 90,000 – making it imperative that mental health is prioritised. Imagine spending 90,000 hours of your life really unhappy…

According to Deloitte, poor workplace mental health costs UK employers around £56 billion every year, with a constant increase since 2019.

Here are some of the most common ways people experience mental health challenges in the workplace:

Heavy workload

Heavy workloads

Do you ever get home from work and think: “Where on earth did the day go?”

Sometimes it can feel like the work never stops! While that may be good for your business, it’s also crucial to recognise that it’s okay to admit when you’re struggling.

91% of adults in the UK told Mental Health UK that they experienced high or extreme levels of pressure or stress across the preceding year, meaning this is a common experience across all sectors.

If this is a problem in your team, it may be worth considering:

  • Do I need to split workloads more fairly?
  • Do I give my team too much work?
  • Do I need to hire a new team member?

Unsupportive team members

Many of us like to think that this trait would be weeded out at the hiring phase, but of course everyone tries to present themselves at their best in interviews. If you’re dealing with an unsupportive team member, it can impact your and your team’s mental health.

One weak link in your team can cause problems for EVERYONE – so as a leader, you need to identify it as soon as possible. Encourage other colleagues to raise any issues with you (or your HR team) so that it can be discussed directly with the culprit in order to work together to find a solution.

Poor relationships across the team

If your team don’t get on with each other, it can create a stale or perhaps a toxic atmosphere. Regular conflict can cause extra stress for team members – and for the others who have to deal with the repercussions.

It’s important to work to resolve these conflicts as soon as possible because not only do they impact everyone’s mental health – but they impact the team’s output too.


Be understanding

When you and your team are hard at work, make sure you don’t forget that they are all human beings with stresses, worries and home lives!

If they seem quiet and withdrawn or their work isn’t at its usual quality, take them aside and have a confidential chat away from others when you can.

Simply knowing that you have their back could be enough to set them on a path towards feeling more positive.

Fresh air

Encourage breaks and work-life balance

If you’re anything like us, you see the time, consider having a break and then say: “Well, I’ll just get this done first.” Then as soon as you do eat your lunch, you’re back at your desk and you think: “Might as well get back to work then!”

While hard work is obviously essential to the smooth running of your business, the work you and your team produce won’t reach its true potential if you don’t have proper breaks!

Working through breaks can contribute to burnout, which can lead to:

  • Exhaustion
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of sleep

Encourage your team members to hit the ‘reset’ button when they need to, whether it’s by heading for a walk, plugging into a podcast or taking a moment to meditate and refresh their minds. Or if things have been tough for a while, it could be the right time for them to take some well-deserved annual leave!

At Flamingo, we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by the beautiful Warwickshire countryside. Many of us get outside for a wander over lunch or if it's been a stressful day, just taking five minutes away from your desk can be that break you need.


Offer real support

When it comes to mental health, many employers talk the talk, but not all of them follow through on their promise to prioritise the mental health of their staff.

It’s so important to look out for your team and try to pick up on changes in their work or personality because this could be an indicator that they’re struggling!

We know it’s not always easy to know how to deal with a team member who may be having problems, so talk to them, try to understand their thoughts and feelings and collaborate on a plan that will help get them back on track.

If a team member has been experiencing mental health challenges for some time, it may be worth discussing adjustments to their working day to help alleviate them.

These adjustments could include:

  • A change in working hours
  • Allowing for hybrid working (if it suits your business)
  • A temporary change in workload

Our MD Emma sits down with each member of our team for a monthly 1:1 catch up. While this does focus on performance, it’s also a chance for team members to open up about anything that’s on their mind, whether it be challenges they’ve encountered at work or struggles they’re facing at home.

After all, a team that knows each other works hard for each other!


Keep communication flowing

There’s nothing worse than feeling isolated at work.

Whether you’re discussing tasks or just catching up on each other’s personal lives, keeping communication flowing across your team makes everyone feel part of the group and like their voice matters, building a culture of teamwork, trust and respect.

At Flamingo, we keep communication front and centre of everything we do. We believe collaboration is crucial and we’re always chatting away about how we can make our work even better for our clients.

We also love organising socials and supporting each other in any outside activities (such as the theatre shows that Emma and Chris both do). Knowing what each other is like outside of work really helps build respect and understanding.

How our team prioritise their mental health

We thought we’d ask the Flamingo team how they stay on top of their own mental health. Here’s what they shared:

Emma – Managing Director

“I really struggle with switching off from work, like most business owners I'm sure. So, for me it’s about setting a start and end time to my work day so that I can make time for the other important people in my life (outside of my wonderful team and clients!).

Whether that’s going to the theatre, going out for dinner, doing a jigsaw puzzle, reading a book, or bingeing the latest series that everyone is talking about – I really value my evenings and weekends and do everything I can to protect that time.

During working hours, I use my Outlook calendar religiously to make sure I block 30 minutes a day to have something to eat. I’ve made the mistake of having back-to-back calls all day – never again!

I’m also very open with the team. Despite being the only woman in the flamboyance now, I have built lovely relationships with every single one of them and I feel like we are a group of friends, who work really well together and all want each other to succeed.”

Chris – Head of Marketing & Clientele

“Setting boundaries for me is important to ensuring my good mental health. The older I’ve got, the more I’ve realised you can’t please everyone and sometimes you just have to cut negative people or things out of your life to ensure you can focus on what you really enjoy. It can be painful going through that ‘transition’, but it stops you worrying about silly things and is incredibly freeing. I think it’s still important to do this in an unselfish way (probably more for me than them!) but if a friendship is feeling one-sided or a hobby is no longer inspiring you, drop it. There are only so many hours in the day, so why waste time on something that is no longer serving you well?

Light is also really important for me, and the gloomy winter months can be a serious energy hoover. That’s why I have a ring light on my desk now – 1: it makes you look amazing on video calls(!), but 2: sometimes I just need light on my face to cheer me up. Lamps and LEDs around the house also help create an aesthetic space where I feel comfortable.

Exercise is also key – whether that’s jumping on the treadmill or getting outside for a long walk to appreciate nature. Get those endorphins pumping round your body!

Finally – find someone you can trust to talk to when you’re feeling down. Someone who will listen and not judge, but who can also give you that outside perspective or tell you to stop overthinking. This can be the hardest thing to find, but having one or a few close friends who can support you when times are tough is really helpful.”

Eddy – Marketing Manager

“Coping with mental health is a unique journey, and for me, it's about finding the right balance to acknowledge but not dwell on the bad. A key strategy that helps me do this is staying active.

Physical activity not only benefits my body but also clears my mind. By voluntarily introducing something challenging into my routine each day it helps to put other ‘stressors’ into perspective – things seem less daunting when I know I can push past them.”

Oscar – Content Executive

“I’m very lucky to have a wide range of hobbies and interests to escape to should I feel stressed or overwhelmed. Escaping into a movie or a book – or even my own writing – gives me a chance to put things into perspective a little more. I’ll often purposefully put on a film or TV show I know isn’t very good just to remind myself that even the most popular actors or directors can have a flop.

If that doesn’t distract me, I always have a backup in a run. Loud music and a personal best can reliably get the endorphins flowing and music often inspires me with new ideas. There’s no one size fits all to managing your mental health – I don’t even think there’s a 'one size fits me'. Every struggle is unique, but if I can’t handle it myself, I know I can always find someone who wants to offer support.”

Richard – Creative Executive

“I'm sure I'm not the only one to say this, but I use exercise as a relaxant and form of stress relief. Cycling helps me stay fit – both physically and mentally. It also allows my mind to wander creatively. I can allow whatever thoughts or concerns I'm having to float around in my head and I'm able to put them back together in a more logical order, allowing me to solve problems more easily.

I've also realised I'm a routine person so I try to stick to strict timings and schedules. I try not to mix my work and home life as it has a profound effect on my mental health. Being able to give the family my full attention without the distractions of work is a real mood booster.”

George – Copywriting Executive

“I have a colourful history when it comes to mental health! I’ve been through some serious patches of anxiety and depression and didn’t always know how to deal with them. On top of that, I can quite easily slip into the habit of being really hard on myself – both in my personal life and at work.

That’s why I always factor small things into my day to keep my mental health on the right track. Every day, I go for a walk before work and on my lunch break. I find this really helps me stay focused and gives me a chance to breathe, clock out and forget about the important things for a while (although walking is important too)! Meditation has also been really helpful, and it’s something I’m starting to build back into my routine.”

If you have any tips of your own, feel free to share them with us!