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Feature - 15 July 2020 (ChannelPro)

As coronavirus restrictions ease, workplaces must return to capacity. How can the channel best navigate these changes?

"Everyone has worked amazingly from their homes during the pandemic, but we really value the camaraderie and vibrancy of our open-plan offices," says Westcoast managing director Alex Tatham. Many in the channel will readily agree on the benefits of a shared team experience on site, but what might this mean when bringing staff back from furlough?

Westcoast staff have already returned as activity increases, Tatham says, with more to follow. Furloughed staff are joining those who worked from home during lockdown, and those who had been required to attend the office throughout.

According to Rachel Lashford, vice president of marketing at analysis firm Canalys, channel furlough has been used selectively, mainly for non-core staff or front-line sales, marketing or professional services, with other staff redeployed or upskilled, often to support remote working. But now things must change once more.

"Our research shows that remote working will not remain the norm. Indeed, the death of the office has been greatly exaggerated," she notes. "Any channel partner that is still furloughing a significant proportion of their workforce is probably not in a great financial position. Big challenges are ahead as the economic recession deepens, and there will be casualties in the channel."

Furlough must be wound down between August and October, points out Alan Price, employment law expert and CEO of BrightHR, while companies need time to plan, create processes and make decisions, including on redundancies and temporary layoffs.

"And it's essential to take the personal circumstances of all employees into account. For example, some may live with someone more vulnerable to the virus," says Price.

Legal issues might trip up companies without suitably agile processes, agrees Alastair Currie, partner at law firm Bevan Brittan, which offers a guide to in-house legal issues arising from coronavirus. "Coronavirus has resulted in a backlog of unresolved grievances . . .


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