Blood, sweat & tears? Mental!

For Mental Health Awareness Week Yolk’s Charlie Loft talks about the importance of adaptability and listening to employees

Charlie Loft

Co-Founder & Creative Director Yolk Creative London Ltd


Ok, so the pandemic was a shocker. I think we can all agree on that. However, the following three statements probably did a lot of damage to people’s mental wellbeing wayyyy before Covid-19 reared its ugly head:

“What’s this, half day?” (at 17:57pm)

“Yeah, it’s a pitch so you’re working the weekend” (at 15:23pm on a Friday)

“Can you just come up with 5 more ideas by EOP” (at 16:42pm) 

One of the key considerations when Co-Founding Yolk Creative London was ensuring that we built a creative working environment where positive mental wellbeing was at the heart of our business. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to mental wellbeing, everyone deals with things differently, but in most cases, allowing people to express themselves and work in a way that suits them will be more beneficial, not only for them but for us too.

We’ve always been conscious of understanding what makes a person tick and how to give them the physical and emotional tools they need to deliver. Since 2013 we’ve worked efficiently knowing that people who are worth collaborating and working with are conscientious enough not to need micromanaging in order to create amazing work. Ultimately if someone isn’t going to be responsible for their own time and output, do we really want to be working with them?

When it became clear in March 2020 that we were all going to have to ‘work from home’ for the foreseeable future it posed an interesting challenge, not logistically but emotionally. Working from home a couple of days a week or being able to work the hours that suit you best is one thing, but an enforced full-time WFH isn’t something that most people were prepared for… or indeed wanted.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to mental wellbeing, everyone deals with things differently

Charlie Loft, Creative Director & Founder, Yolk

Something we had learned from being open to people’s individual working habits and needs prior to the lockdown was allowing our guys and girls to work fluidly. Obviously, there needs to be a structure and deadlines to work to but how you meet those deadlines should be up to the individual.

Trust is THE most important factor in all of this. Trusting the team to firstly look after themselves and allow the work to fit around them seemed like the most sensible and sympathetic approach. Ultimately there is no point whipping your colleagues or expecting them to stick to rigid hours of working when the world had been thrown upside down. Finding our own rhythm as individuals that worked harmoniously as a collective was a byproduct of us all trusting in each other.

Lockdown was by no means plain sailing but this approach of ‘individual needs first’ and work second allowed us to all be open and completely honest about how we were feeling from day to day. This in turn enabled us to make judgment calls on what was realistically achievable and by when. I wouldn’t say that our morning ‘Teams’ catch ups were counselling sessions, but they certainly helped and allowed us to move forward.

Lockdown was by no means plain sailing but this approach of ‘individual needs first’ and work second allowed us to all be open and completely honest about how we were feeling from day to day

Charlie Loft, Creative Director & Founder, Yolk

Clearly, experience counts for a lot and the more experience you can draw upon the more options you have to solve problems both creatively and emotionally. But I would challenge anyone who managed to get through the pandemic without at least one or two wobbles along the way. Something I feel very proud of is the way in which all our team embraced the ‘individual needs first’ approach. Whether Senior or Junior, the wellbeing of each other was paramount in order for us to function as an agency. 

Having previously worked in agencies where the culture was more akin to that of a stylish sweatshop (where you’re supposed to be grateful for the bean bags, the X-box and free food after 8 pm in order to keep you firmly planted at work for fear of being looked down upon) we made a very conscious decision to be anything but that, not just for our own sanity but for that of our colleagues too. That decision from the outset without doubt enabled us to weather the Covid-19 storm, and not only weather it but come out the other side stronger.

I personally know that I am most effective between the hours of 8 am and 2 pm, but that’s just me. Everyone is different and being creative isn’t a production line, we don’t turn on a tap and ideas just fall out. Each member of the team has their own way and even though we have studio ‘open hours’ of 10 am to 6 pm we trust each other to get the job done in the way that suits us without ever letting our clients down.

So, whether it’s giving blood at 11:15 am, breaking into a sweat at the gym at 15:05 pm or wiping away tears of joy at the latest pitch win at 19:06pm, enabling that kind of flexibility and fluidity has certainly worked for us. We believe that positive blood, sweat and tears lead to a happy team and excellent working results - that is what we call mental wellbeing

Guest Author

Charlie Loft

Co-Founder & Creative Director Yolk Creative London Ltd


Agency Co-Founder, and commercially minded creative leader, with a demonstrated history of delivering idea centric and results driven creative solutions. Experienced in, and passionate about, growing big ideas and nurturing them across all media touchpoints. Inspiring clients and directing talent to bring high profile campaigns to life is in his DNA. With over 20 years’ experience, Charlie has been creatively influential across many sectors collaborating with brands such as Nike, Six Nations Rugby, MTV, Cartoon Network, Sony Computer Entertainment, The BFI, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., Altitude Films, Jack Daniels, Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, Heineken… and many more. A music and film loving F1 fanatic who thinks he’s Ayrton Senna in a Go Kart… also Junior egg’n’spoon champion, 1986.

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Mental Health workplace