Business Healthy Newsletter, 17 April 2020

This newsletter is designed to provide a roundup of news, updates and information that may be useful in helping you to keep your workforce healthy and well. It is written in a way to make it easy for you to cut and paste content to share across your internal communications channels. If there is a way we can make this easier, please let us know here.

Business Healthy is funded and delivered by the City of London Corporation’s Public Health team, supporting the City Corporation’s statutory obligations to ensure the health and wellbeing of the more than half a million people who work in the Square Mile each day.

Follow Business Healthy on Twitter or LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on news and developments in the world of employee health and wellbeing in the Square Mile.


Coronavirus (Covid-19): Information and advice

Employers want to keep their staff informed about the Covid-19 pandemic. There is lots of information and misinformation out there, so please ensure that any advice or guidance you are sharing only comes from a reputable source, such as the GOV.UK website.

This information was accurate at the time of sending the newsletter, but please bear in mind that the situation is changing and the most up to date information and guidance can be found on the GOV.UK website.

The UK Government is regularly updating its latest information and advice webpage on the GOV.UK website. Specific guidance for employers and businesses is available here.

NHS survey

The NHS has launched a new coronavirus status checker, which aims to help coordinate its response and build up additional data on the outbreak.

It’s asking everyone – whether they have symptoms (no matter how mild), or none at all – to complete a short survey on a regular basis. Please support these efforts by taking a couple of minutes to complete the survey and sharing it with others.

Travel advice

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is providing up to date advice on travel through the Travel Advice page of the GOV.UK website. If you live in the UK and are currently abroad you are strongly advised to return now, if commercial flights are still available.

Sharing the message

An NHS video on the best way to wash your hands can be viewed here. Please watch and share and keep sharing. Thorough handwashing is one of the most effective ways to help stop the infection from spreading.

Reducing the transmission – stay at home

Stay at home to save lives and protect the NHS. You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.

You should only leave your home for one of four reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home. Employers should support their staff to work from home unless it’s absolutely necessary

Even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and stay at least 2 metres (6ft) away from other people who are not part of your household.

Please stop all non-essential use of public transport and respect the ban on public gatherings of more than two people.

Do not meet friends or family members who do not live with you and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

People at increased risk of severe illness should be particularly stringent in following the advice

FAQs on what you can and can’t do can be found here.


Supporting the wellbeing of furloughed staff

Many firms have put staff on “furlough”, where they are kept on the payroll and can continue to receive a salary, even though they aren’t working. This measure has been implemented by the Government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, to help support employers and protect their employees from redundancy.

For many, work brings a sense of purpose and routine, which can help to support their wellbeing. Combined with social distancing measures and other restrictions as a result of the ongoing pandemic, being furloughed can exacerbate negative impacts on individuals’ wellbeing.

Faye McGuinness – Head of Workplace Wellbeing Programmes at mental health charity Mind – has written a blog post for Business Healthy’s network, where she outlines some guidance and top tips on how employers can support the wellbeing of employees who have been furloughed, including supporting them to develop additional skills, which brings benefits to both the individual and their employer.

Read the post here.

Looking for free resources to help your employees develop and improve their digital skills and work from home more effectively and efficiently? View this list on the City of London Corporation website.


Alcohol and lockdown

During these stressful and uncertain times, where bars and pubs are closed and we are being asked to remain indoors and to not socialise with family and friends outside our own household, or with colleagues, the temptation to unwind with a “quarantini” or “locktail” seems even more appealing.

According to the World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe (WHO Europe), during times of social distancing and lockdowns, alcohol consumption can exacerbate health vulnerabilities, risk-taking behaviours, mental health issues and violence – particularly within the home. There is also dangerous misinformation circulating that suggests drinking high-strength alcohol can protect you from Covid-19, which is simply not true. WHO advice is that people should minimise our alcohol consumption at any time and particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. It has also sought to bust some myths doing the rounds, including:

Myth: Drinking strong alcohol kills the virus in the inhaled air

Fact: Consumption of alcohol will not kill the virus in the inhaled air. It will not disinfect your mouth and throat and it will not give you any kind of protection against Covid-19

Myth: Alcohol stimulates immunity and resistance to coronavirus

Fact: Alcohol has a negative effect on your immune system and will not stimulate immunity and virus resistance

Company alcohol policies and working from home

With unprecedented numbers of staff working from home, it may be timely for employers to remind employees of company policies and procedures around drinking during working hours, which apply even when working from home. It’s also a good opportunity to reiterate any support in place for staff who may need help to reduce their intake or with an alcohol use disorder, and/ or signpost to online resources and support services.

Avoiding using alcohol as a crutch

While drinking might help you feel less anxious and more at-ease, the feeling is short-lived and over time can create a dependence on using alcohol to relax.

Drinkaware – the independent UK-wide alcohol education charity – has lots of information and advice on its website, including guidance on isolation and cutting down on drinking and on coronavirus, alcohol and mental health.

It also lists some easy ways to reduce alcohol intake:

  • Alcohol-free options for an online party, which can help you to pace and space
  • Be aware of self-pouring (you’re more likely to pour yourself a bigger glass at home than you’d drink in the pub) and use a shot glass or alcohol measuring cup to measure, or food weighing scales
  • Use a smaller-sized glass than usual
  • Switch to drinks with lower alcohol content
  • Try “mindful” drinking, where you are aware of the moment and enjoy your drink. This makes it less likely that you’ll drink several glasses without realising

Help and support

Toolkits on cutting down on drinking are available from Drinkaware and the NHS website also has information on different treatment options for alcohol misuse, depending on the extent of your drinking, including telephone and digital support.


Guidance for businesses

The City of London Corporation has pledged to support firms in the Square Mile that are struggling as a result of the current outbreak. Read more here.

Updates to Government guidance for employers and businesses and employees

The Government has been regularly updating its guidance to businesses and employers on Covid-19.

It states that businesses and workplaces should make every possible effort to enable working from home as a first option. Where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the Government.

The most recent updates to business and employer guidance include information on the use of face masks in the community, what they need to know and good practice for employers.

The Government has also outlined how it will provide financial support to businesses and the self-employed. Read it here.

Guidance for employees

In addition to Government guidance for employers, there is specific guidance for employees and guidance on providing unpaid care, for anyone who cares – unpaid – for a friend of family member who cannot cope without their support. This may be because they are defined as clinically “extremely vulnerable” or “shielded”, or “vulnerable” in relation to Covid-19 infection, such as those who are pregnant or who have a lifelong condition, illness, disability, serious injury, mental health condition or an addiction.

The guidance advises all carers to create an emergency plan with the person they care for, to use in circumstances where help from other people to deliver care may be needed. Depending on the circumstances, this could be help from family or friends, or a care provider.

The guidance advises that if an individual needs time off work to care for a relative who has symptoms or is self-isolating, they should speak to their employer in the first instance.


Free support services to signpost your staff to

Expert advice for City workers – City Advice

City Advice is an advice service for anyone working, living or studying in the Square Mile. It is commissioned by the City of London Corporation and delivered by Toynbee Hall.

City Advice’s expert advisers can provide advice on a range of issues, including around bereavement, employment, legal and financial/ debt. It can be accessed via telephone and email. Visit the website to find out more.

Support through the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service

Provided by Able Futures on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service provides free one-to-one support to anyone in England, Scotland or Wales who is employed, self-employed, or an apprentice, including anyone who has been furloughed, and who needs guidance about anything that is affecting their mental health in these challenging times.

Support is provided via telephone or video call appointments or email by a qualified Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant (VRC). The service can also provide support and guidance to employers. For more information, visit the Able Futures website.

Quit For Covid

There has never been a better reason to quit smoking. The Chief Medical Officer and Health Secretary have both highlighted that smokers are at increased risk from Covid-19. Smoking harms the immune system, reducing the body’s natural protection against infections, like coronavirus. Read more here.

Other sources of information and advice

  • Gingerbread: For single parents. It also includes information on contact arrangements between parents during Covid-19 and social distancing
  • Action for Children‘s support for parents
  • Blurt: guidance on being mindful of digital boundaries, ways to self-soothe and self-care, ways to make social media work for you, and more in its “Coronavirus Helpful Hub”
  • Outlife: Advice on how to support LGBTQ+ people during the pandemic and information about support services. LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience isolation, homelessness, mental health problems and an array of other inequalities that make the community more vulnerable during this difficult time. Even before the pandemic, older LGBTQ+ people were more likely to experience social isolation and younger people, especially those living with non-supportive families, are particularly under pressure from social isolation rules.

Top tips on effective and productive homeworking, including establishing boundaries, maintaining connections, guidance for managers and balancing household responsibilities, have been published by North East & North Cumbria Integrated Care System (part of the NHS). Read them here.

Physical wellbeing

With more employees working from home, it’s important to support them to stay healthy, happy, well and productive. Read our guidance on preventing and managing musculoskeletal issues when working from home, which also lists some free, digital resources.

Mental wellbeing

There are lots of free resources available for employers to signpost their staff to, which can assist with mental wellbeing. A list is available here.

Where your firm already has provision in place, such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), network of Mental Health First Aiders, or on-site counsellor that can be accessed virtually, please consider promoting these services first and foremost. Third-sector organisations and charities are facing significantly increased demand during this time and it is helpful for them to be able to focus on assisting individuals and employees of smaller firms who are not already able to access support.


Coming up…

Virtual Dragon Cafe in the City, fortnightly on Wednesdays

The much-loved Dragon Cafe in the City continues to deliver its fortnightly Wellness Wednesday sessions, helping City workers to release the pressure through a range of free creative activities.

Sessions are delivered virtually and the next session is taking place on Wednesday 30 April. To receive the programme for the next session and joining instructions, please visit the Dragon Cafe in the City website and subscribe to receive the newsletter (at the bottom of the page).

Mental Health Awareness Week, 18-24 May

It was recently announced that the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week will be “kindness”. We are collaborating with partners – stay tuned for more information.

Thought of the week

“In these challenging times it is more important than ever that we all look after ourselves, physically and mentally. For those of us that can, a daily walk or other forms of exercise, with social distancing in mind, bring countless benefits. But companies and organisations also have a huge part to play, and need to step up and support their employees during a crisis.

Charities…continue to provide crucial help where they can. However in the face of significant increase in demand, these resources have become stretched and limited. Many larger firms will have their own support services in place, and of course these should always be used in the first instance.”

– William Russell, the Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of the City of London, is quoted in a City A.M. piece on support available to City firms and their employees during the Covid-19 pandemic.


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Previous editions of our newsletter can be found here.

Xenia Koumi

Xenia is a Public Health Specialist at the City of London Corporation and leads the Business Healthy programme