Brief from the Chief: COVID-19 Update - 8 April
Wed, 08 Apr 2020

Dear all,

On Monday I invited you to suggest ideas about how we can all look after our mental and physical health during these difficult times. What a fantastic response I've had!

By Tuesday morning, I'd already received a number of ideas through the free Text the Chief service and the Suggestion Box email address.

Thank you to everyone who contributed suggestions so quickly and for taking the time to think about different ways we can help each other through the COVID-19 challenge.

All the ideas have merit and I want the contributors to know that I really appreciate the suggestions. Some of the ideas will need further consideration but once I know whether we can or can't implement them I will respond to each of the staff again individually to let them know.

The ideas we can definitely and immediately support will be added to the general health and wellbeing advice which is available on the intranet and other communications channels.

Here's a flavour of the ideas I've received so far:

Josh has suggested people doing an exercise routine or challenge based on the Tour de Yorkshire. Each of the four days could be a different "stage", with sections in the exercise route representing "sprints" and "hill climbs". Josh suggests it could help people to celebrate the event despite it being cancelled this year, as well as celebrating Yorkshire and helping people to keep fit.

If the idea is a goer, I might need to dust off my joggers!

Michelle suggested giving staff access to East Riding Leisure virtual gym classes, to help them keep fit while maintaining social distancing.

It's a great idea and I've told Michelle about East Riding Leisure's current LES MILLS offer. It's free work-outs for 60 days with LES MILLS on Demand. You can read more about it here.

Dave has been inspired by nature with his suggestion to aid our mental health. He points out that birds are very active in the spring and wants to encourage colleagues who have gardens or other outdoor space to set up bird tables.

Dave's message says: "You can watch and listen for the many different birds which will visit it, you'd be amazed.

"Watch the male pigeons and how they try to win a mate by sticking their tails in the air and showing off that they have great balance. Then watch the females fly off, not interested - it's so funny! Then, when they finally do get attached, watch them tenderly grooming each other. We can learn a lot from the birds.

"You could keep a diary, say for one hour a day when you feel up to it, and log all the different birds that visit your garden. Why not involve the kids too and give prizes for spotting a new visitor to your garden? Stay safe and have fun."

Thanks for your suggestion Dave, I never realised pigeon-watching could be so much fun!

Adele said that, after reading Monday's Brief from the Chief, she was inspired to wonder if it is possible to have videos created by fitness instructors available online for staff to do at home.

I'm glad to be able to let Adele know that our fitness instructors and colleagues in Culture and Customer Services have already been challenged with coming up with suggestions for staff - and our communities - to keep physically and mentally active.

Active East Riding Concepts v4

Some of these have already been published on social media. Have a look at what East Riding Leisure is doing and Active East Riding on Facebook, which we will also have a page for on the council website soon, promoting lots of #stayhomestayactive things to do.

There are a range of activity suggestions to keep the whole family happy and engaged and the content features posts about books to read, games to play, physical challenges and so on. I hope you enjoy the tips and find them useful.

They're also very creative. I've seen a video on East Riding Leisure's Twitter feed of Dominic, one of the health and wellbeing team, doing a football keepie-uppies challenge with toilet roll in the garden!

Thanks again Adele for thinking about this. I'd suggest creating a fitness video vlog myself but I don't think anyone would want to see that!

Antonia highlights the fact that there has been a lot of publicity around the "clap for our carers" initiative - rightly so - as well as the huge amounts of coverage showing the minority of people who are still ignoring the "stay at home" guidance.

She said in her message to me: "I wonder how the council could support and encourage the 'stay at home' message, especially with the long bank holiday weekend coming up and the good weather forecast?

"Could the council find a way to get the whole of the East Riding to have a virtual tea break together, at a given time and date, and encourage people to share pictures and videos via social media?

"It would promote the message that, whether you are at home - working, home schooling, self-isolating - or out there doing a frontline job, we are all in this together and by abiding by the Government's 'stay at home' restrictions we are all making an important contribution towards controlling the spread of COVID-19. 

"By sharing a cup of tea as a county - from our kitchen, living room, garden, balcony, truck, ward or canteen - we are supporting the whole country.

"It would also be a large platform for ensuring as many people as possible are aware of the different ways they can find help and support from the council, the National Health Service and the volunteer organisations."

I really like the idea Antonia and, as well as highlighting it in this Brief from the Chief, I will be sharing your suggestion with colleagues. I shall look forward to joining you and many others in sharing a virtual cuppa online!

Simon has written in about an app which asks users to record on a daily basis whether they are experiencing any of the symptoms of the coronavirus. He says the app has been produced by King's College London in collaboration with Guys and St Thomas' Hospitals and Zoe (a health company).

The aims of the research facilitated by the app include gaining a better understanding of how fast the virus is spreading; identifying high risk areas in the country and identifying who is most at risk by better understanding symptoms linked to health conditions.

Simon is encouraging more use of the app and I have shared his more detailed email with our public health team. So thank you Simon for this very informative and potentially very helpful suggestion.

Chris has messaged me to say he really enjoys the Briefs from the Chief (it's reassuring and heartening to read that they are being read and appreciated) and asks whether I can do a live stream version. I'll look into the possibility of this Chris, so thanks for your feedback and watch this space!

An anonymous Text the Chief message suggests home workers could adopt a Mediterranean work pattern and have a longer lunch rather than working flat out right through the day. They also suggest, for those colleagues with families, to set a time to eat together whenever possible.

I think this is a really important point. I appreciate people's work patterns while home-working will have to factor in business needs but we really believe in the importance of flexibility at the council. I encourage people to please make time for family whenever possible and to plan your working time around family needs as well as business operational needs.

The whole point of Monday's and today's Briefs from the Chief is about looking after our mental as well as our physical health so please do what it takes to support your own, your families' and your colleagues' health and wellbeing.

Jenny has shared some resources about recognising and coping with stress, mindfulness and sleeping well and I'm sharing these with public health colleagues so that we can see how they complement our existing range of wellbeing advice for staff. Thank you Jenny.

Liz has suggested postponing the prohibition on dog walking on some East Riding beaches which normally come into force on 1 May. She suggests there will not be the usual number of families playing on the beach this year but there are many local dog walkers and that this could support social distancing for them.

I've checked with colleagues who look after our foreshores and beaches and they tell me that, as we move closer to the start date of the by-law, it will be reviewed but the numbers of people visiting beaches, with or without dogs, have been low and they anticipate that this will continue to be the case.

Another colleague is a member of the Samaritans and has asked me to make colleagues aware of its 24-hour service for anyone who needs emotional support.

He says: "The myth of having to be suicidal to contact the Samaritans is disappearing. We are there to talk things through. We will listen, we will not advise. We will explore what is troubling people and talk this through. We laugh and cry with people.

"Please make people aware of this service. Things can often seem worse when you wake in the middle of the night and would love to talk to someone - we will be there! Our freephone number is 116123."

Thank you to our colleague for sharing this. It's reassuring to know that such 24-hour support is available to anyone who needs it.

Finally, Lindsey told me about a free app she has on her smartphone which has thousands of free meditations to use. I won't share the name because it's not for me to recommend one app over another but I'm sure there are many such free meditation apps to choose from.

Lindsey tells me that the app she uses has a variety of options, from traditional meditation practice to stories (including bedtime stories to calm children), relaxing music, meditation tutorials and meditation designed to cope with anxiety, manage stress and improve your sleep.

Thanks very much for the suggestion Lindsey, I'm sure lots of colleagues will find this tip useful.

So that's a run-down of the suggestions so far but please keep them coming. I won't be able to share all of them in future Briefs from the Chief but any suggestions which we can support will be added to the wellbeing guidance we produce.

If you have any great ideas to share to help colleagues keep mentally and physically well, please either send an email to Suggestionbox@eastriding.gov.uk or send a text, for free, to 80800. Start your text with TEXTTHECHIEF followed by a space and then your message. I look forward to receiving your ideas!

Thank you to everyone across all services for your continued support and please stay safe and well.



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