Business Healthy Newsletter, 31 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.


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.

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. If you’re self-employed you’ll get up to £2,500 a month in grants for at least three months

Travel advice

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

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.

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.

Critical sectors guidance

Government guidance on school access for children of/ being looked after by key workers references:

  • staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors, information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the Covid-19 response
  • key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.

If workers believe they fall within the critical categories above, they should confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.

If this is the case and their child’s/ children’s school is closed, then they are advised to contact their local authority, who will seek to redirect them to a local school in their area that their child, or children, can attend.

Where their workers are providing services determined to be critical, employers are advised to follow Government guidance on social distancing, including assisting staff to work from home wherever possible.

Advice for working parents and carers

With schools closed, many people are trying to balance work and childcare within their households, which can be challenging and a source of stress.

Where possible, employers should support staff who have childcare and/ or other caring responsibilities, by assisting them to work flexibly and empowering them to develop their own working routines –  particularly for those who are able to work from home. Clear communications about expectations and setting boundaries can also be helpful, to ensure that employees understand what is expected of them during these unusual times.

The UK’s work-life balance charity, Working Families, has published some practical guidance on working parents’ and carers’ rights during the Covid-19 outbreak, including balancing work responsibilities with childcare, employment rights and more. Read the guidance here.

Healthy home working

Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.

Now, more than ever, clear communication from employers to their staff about the importance of staying health and well, is needed. Mental and physical wellbeing are closely interlinked and influence one another.

Sharing stories, for example from senior leaders about how they are developing routines when working from home, and adapting to Government measures on social distancing, can be a helpful way of getting this message across.

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.

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 here.

The Government has outlined how it will support employees, employers and businesses. Read here.


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. Smokers are therefore at greater risk of:

  • getting acute respiratory infections
  • the infection lasting longer
  • the infection being more serious than it would be for someone who does not smoke

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises that the act of smoking increases the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth.

Second-hand smoke has similar effects. Children who are exposed to smoke are at increased risk of acute respiratory infections.

For anyone looking to #QuitForCovid, there is lots of free and proven online support available on the NHS’ Smokefree website, including tailored plans and 28 days’ of free quitting advice and tips straight to your inbox, which can increase your chance of success.

In addition, you can join the “Quit Clinic” daily on Twitter (7.30-8.30pm), where people can ask questions to leading stop smoking expert Louise Ross. Visit the “Quit for Covid” Twitter page here to find out more and to get involved.

Please note that local Stop Smoking Services are not providing face-to-face support and may be operating a very limited service, due to the ongoing pandemic.

Cultural offering

Being stuck indoors doesn’t mean skimping on your regular dose of culture and the arts. In fact, reading, listening to music, or watching a performance can bring lots of benefits to your mental wellbeing and provide you with some escapism!

Our highlights of virtual cultural offerings include:

…and for some more lighthearted entertainment,  why not check out Edinburgh Zoo’s live Penguin webcam? Fun for all the family!

Domestic abuse and Covid-19

We are being asked to stay at home to stay safe, but for many people who are enduring domestic abuse, limited opportunities to leave their homes mean that they may be feeling even more vulnerable and isolated than usual. Many abusers will use this situation to further control, isolate and abuse.

It’s therefore crucial, now more than ever, that we send a message to people in this frightening and dangerous situation that they are not alone and reiterate that domestic abuse services, refuges and the Police among many others, are still open and working hard to provide support and keep people safe. Government guidance on social distancing permits people to leave their home in order to avoid or escape risk of injury or harm.

As an employer, you can support these efforts by sharing the following information with your employees, colleagues, friends and relatives:

  • If you are affected by domestic abuse and are unable to leave your home to access support, you can call the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247, or the 24-hour Victim Support line on 0808 16 89 111
  • Women’s Aid have webchats available Monday-Friday between 10am-12pm at:
  • Most services have email options available if you are unable to call
  • Support services are still running and providing support over the phone
  • In an emergency please call 999 – the Police are still working hard to keep people safe
  • Services that can provide support and safety planning for those affected by domestic abuse:

– Women and children:

– Women:


– Men:

– Harmful Practices:

– All:

  • Employers’ toolkit from the City of London Police on “Spotting the Signs”, which can be accessed here
  • For more information on ways to reach out to employees, please contact the City Corporation’s Domestic Abuse, Vulnerability and Risk Policy Officer here

Please do also consider groups within your workforce who may be at particular risk – for example, migrant workers.

Dragon Cafe in the City goes online!  Wednesday 1 April

During this period of social distancing, Dragon Cafe in the City regulars and first-timers don’t need to miss out. The next session – taking place tomorrow, Wednesday 1 April – will be going online and can be accessed from the comfort of our own homes.

Sessions include a lunch & learn on managing stress, a workshop on visual diaries and mind-body yoga. All free and open to anyone to help them release the pressure.

Tomorrow’s programme can be accessed here and is in PDF format for easy sharing.

Thought of the week

“During these challenging times, it is natural for all of us to feel worried or anxious, but there are things we can all do to help ourselves and others, to prevent these feelings from becoming more serious.

We should continue to check up on friends, family and neighbours by phone or online and pursue the activities we are able to do from home and in line with guidance. By adopting a new routine, setting goals, eating healthily and maintaining physical activity, we can stay in good mental health today and tomorrow.”

– Prof. Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England is quoted in guidance published for the public by the Government on the mental health and wellbeing impacts of coronavirus (Covid-19) and how to protect against them.

City SME shares best practice

Cubico Sustainable Investments is a small but global City-based company, which was recently awarded with the Mayor of London’s Healthy Workplace Award.

Cubico’s Human Resources Director, Rebecca Hogan, has shared some practical insights on Cubico’s approach to supporting the health and wellbeing of its workforce, in a case study for the Business Healthy website. Read it here.

UCL study into the psychological and social effects of Covid-19

University College London’s Research Department of Behavioural Science and Health (UCL BSH) has launched a study into the psychological and social effects of Covid-19 in the UK.

Results will be used to understand the effects of the virus and social distancing measures on individuals and will help to track trajectories of mental health and loneliness in the UK over the coming weeks, identify which groups are most at risk, and understand the effects of any potentially protective activities people could be engaging in. This will help to inform the advice that people are given about how to stay well at home.

The study is open to all adults in the UK. Participation involves answering a 15-minute online survey now and then answering a shorter 10-minute follow-up survey once a week whilst social isolation measures are in place.

To take part, visit

Weekly public data releases will be provided each week and you can sign up to receive these here.

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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