Monday 5 October 2020 8:00 am

London may be empty but community spirit must stay strong

William Russell is Lord Mayor of the City of London.

Just over six months since lockdown restrictions were first imposed, life today is very different for all of us with workplaces in the Square Mile.

My workplace – Mansion House – would normally be buzzing with activity, hosting delegations from around the world and major set-piece events.

The government’s recently revised guidance on working from home where possible and other Covid-19 restrictions unfortunately means that this is no longer an option.

Of course, such activity is now taking place through the lens of technology. I recently “met” with Australian and Japanese representatives to strengthen trade ties between our countries. Later this month, I will also be engaging virtually with leading figures across the financial and fintech communities in the USA and Canada.

Business is also continuing – albeit not as usual – for many firms based in the City. Large parts of the financial and professional services sector have adapted remarkably well to new ways of working over the past six months.

Nevertheless, I know from speaking to numerous employees and chief executives that they found their recent return to Covid-secure workplace hugely beneficial. Many would like to head back as swiftly as possible both for their own sake and also to support the wider Square Mile ecosystem.

Video conferencing can only partly compensate for the activities and day-to-day interactions we all want and previously took for granted.

This is why firms are telling us that they remain committed to their City offices in order to provide a space for the innovation, collaboration and staff development needed to flourish.

It is also why we welcomed the statement from the Prime Minister last month clarifying that “where people must go into work for their job, their mental health, their wellbeing or whatever it happens to be, then of course they should do so.”

The past six months have been hugely challenging for many people, so it is vital that staff have access to a Covid-secure workplace, especially if they face difficult circumstances at home.

The City of London Corporation is committed to supporting the mental health of all our communities through this pandemic.

That is why a new City Wellbeing Centre – delivered in partnership with Tavistock Relationship – started to provide virtual counselling and other professional support to residents and workers in and around the Square Mile earlier this summer. I look forward to attending its official opening later this week.

Initiatives such as Dragon Cafe in the City, which provides a fortnightly programme of free, creative activities designed to help people to release the pressure of day-to-day life, are also supporting people during lockdown.

We are also working with employers to tackle stigma and raise awareness of mental health in the workplace through the “This Is Me” green ribbon campaign of my charity, the Lord Mayor’s Appeal.

This is a time when our communities need to come together and support one another. Those employers that rise to the challenge of supporting their staff through these tough times will be best placed to respond once we get through the pandemic and life starts to return to normal.

Main image credit: Getty

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