Business Healthy Newsletter, 18 March 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.


Novel 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 website.

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

Reducing the transmission

The Government has published guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK and protecting older people and vulnerable people. It advises on social distancing measures we should all be taking to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of Covid-19. It is intended for use in situations where people are living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family and carers.

Social distancing measures are steps to reduce the social interaction between people and include – among other steps:

  • avoiding the non-essential use of public transport
  • varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible
  • working from home, where possible. Employers should support employees to do so
  • avoiding gatherings with family and friends. Keeping in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet and social media

Everyone should be trying to follow these measures as much as is pragmatic. This advice is likely to be in place for some weeks or months, and may change as the situation evolves further.

Travel advice

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is providing up to date advice on travel through the Travel Advice page of the website.

Sharing the message

The NHS has produced a poster sharing public information on Covid-19, which can be downloaded here. (latest update 14 February 2020)

An NHS video on the best way to wash your hands here. Please watch and share and keep sharing.

Healthy home working

With more employees working from home, it’s important to support them to stay healthy, happy, well and productive.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in its guidance to employers on health and safety for homeworkers, most work carried out at home is office-type and therefore low-risk.

IOSH – the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health – advises employers put in place clear, consistent management systems to reduce risks to remote workers, with regular monitoring to ensure risks are being controlled adequately and the systems are effective. Its “Home office, mobile office: Managing remote working” guidance outlines the main considerations for risk assessments and guidance on each one:

  • Work environment
  • Work equipment, including DSE (see below)
  • Mental wellbeing (see below)
  • Working alone
  • Fire

It also advises that companies inform their employer’s liability insurance company that they are arranging remote working for their staff and that they recommend employees to discuss working from home with their home insurance provider.

Of the work equipment used at home, employers are only responsible for that that they have supplied.  Employers still, however, have a legal obligation to protect their workers from the health risks of working with display screen equipment (DSE), such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. This applies to workers who use DSE daily, or an hour or more at a time, if they are at a fixed workstation, working from home or who are mobile workers, or hot-desking.

The HSE recommends short, but frequent, physical and visual breaks (e.g. five minutes every hour) as a key way to reduce the risk of developing DSE-related issues. This is particularly important when working from home, where DSE set-up may be less than ideal, and/or there are less opportunities for natural changes of activity, such as going to meetings or popping over to a colleague’s desk.

Encouraging a proper lunch break, physical activity where feasible and possible, facilitating regular contact between teams and colleagues, and setting clear boundaries between being “online” and “offline” are all additional helpful measures employers can take to support staff during prolonged periods of homeworking.

Staying mentally well

And on that note, working from home, self isolating and social distancing can all have an impact on individuals’ mental wellbeing. Luckily, there are lots of resources available to employers and their staff to help them proactively manage their mental health. These include:

The Government’s guidance on social distancing also includes some advice.

Business support

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 about the measures announced in last week’s Budget here.

The Government has outlined how it will support employees and self-employed people, as well as SMEs (firms with fewer than 250 staff) here.


Coming up

Postponed: Dragon Cafe in the City, Wednesday 18 March

We’d like to advise our patrons and supporters that this week’s Dragon Café in the City – which was due to run today – has been postponed.

We will keep you updated about upcoming sessions via the Dragon Cafe in the City website and Twitter.

In the meantime, we still welcome you to release the pressure – please see the aforementioned list of resources, which may help.

Free webinar: Mental health and wellbeing and looking after remote workers

SHP (Safety and Health Practitioner) is hosting a free webinar on Friday 27 March, 11am to 12pm, focusing on health and wellbeing at work. The webinar will cover insights from Mind’s 2018/19 Workplace Wellbeing Index, as well as some considerations for working remotely.

Speakers include Kevin Robinson – Chief Operating Officer at Safer Highways and Faye McGuinness – Head of Workplace Wellbeing Programmes at Mind.

Find out more and register here.

For information on other events taking place in the City related to workplace health and wellbeing, visit the “Events” page on the Business Healthy website.


Thought of the week

“For a muscle, the only way to build it is to work that particular muscle. A bicep is strengthened by performing bicep curls, not squats. However, the brain can be improved not only by undertaking cognitive activities that directly target the brain, but also by exercising.

The same focus and perseverance that you develop when doing a long run or set of push-ups and resisting the temptation to give up, is also useful when sitting down to work and resisting the temptation to check email.”

– In a lecture given in the City of London earlier this month, as part of a Gresham College series, Professor Alex Edmans talks about mental and physical wellness and how evidence shows their importance on quality of life, career success and productivity at work. This talk can be accessed via video, a PDF transcript and presentation


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Xenia Koumi

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