Navigating coronavirus: Stories of 2 Intel families

Whether you work from home or come to a site during the coronavirus, this unprecedented time takes getting used to – at best – and can be extremely difficult – at worst.

We are not only managing our work life through a global pandemic, we are also facing challenges in our personal lives. Many are caring for children – toddlers without daycare, young students who need school help, children with disabilities or special needs – or other family members who need assistance. And there are countless other situations employees and their families are navigating.

Though no two people have the exact same experience, we share many of the same challenges.

We spoke with two Intel couples – Abdul Hadi Abdul Halim and Nor Akma binti Mansor in Malaysia, along with Abby and Scott Isles in Oregon – to hear about their experiences managing home and work life during the coronavirus pandemic.

Abdul Hadi Abdul Halim and Nor Akma binti Mansor

Abdul Hadi Abdul Halim and Nor Akma binti Mansor with their three children on a family holiday last year to Kundasang, Sabah, East Malaysia.

Their day jobs: Abdul Hadi Abdul Halim works in the Intel Kulim factory, alternating day and night shifts. Nor Akma binti Mansor works at the Intel Kulim Customer Quality Network (CQN) lab, working mostly during the day. Both Abdul Hadi and Nor Akma are “essential” employees, going in to work for their shifts despite Malaysia’s current stay-at-home orders.

What life was like before the pandemic: Abdul Hadi and Nor Akma have three children, ages 4, 8, and 12. Before the nationwide lockdown, they had a routine that allowed for time spent together as a family, whether it was heading to Penang Island for a walk or grabbing a bite to eat.

How life has changed: Life is definitely more complicated. The kids have not left the house in over 45 days. They’re quite bored. Their oldest daughter is disciplined and has outlined her days, blocking time for study, play time, and TV. The two younger kids occupy each other by playing most of the time.

Challenges so far: Managing schedules isn’t easy, especially without the family’s nanny. Last week, Abdul Hadi had to stay at work for critical factory tasks at the same time Nor Akma had to head into work. “We had to leave the three kids home alone,” says Abdul Hadi, who in 2019 spent six months on overseas assignment at Intel Chengdu. That experience offered good preparation for current situations. “We put our 12-year-old in charge of our two younger children and left a cellphone in case they needed us,” Abdul Hadi says.

How the family is coping: Abdul Hadi and Nor Akma begin every day with a plan. “We sit down and outline our working hours and days, and decide who will take care of certain roles and responsibilities while the other is away,” he says. For example, Nor Akma does most of the cooking early in the morning to prepare for the day, while Abdul Hadi takes care of the grocery shopping. Lately, they both have been working closely with their managers to accommodate the circumstances as much as possible. Recently, Abdul Hadi had to ask his manager for some flexibility to take care of the kids.

Biggest takeaways: “Be optimistic and hopeful. We’re in tough times together. Count on your family – your Intel family and your own family – to support you and be there for you always,” Abdul Hadi says.

Abby and Scott Isles

Abby and Scott Isles with their two children.

Their day jobs: Abby Isles works in DPG marketing and Scott Isles works in supply chain management. Both Scott and Abby are working from their Oregon home during the pandemic.

What life was like before the pandemic: Scott’s and Abby’s lives were busy between work and raising their 9- and 12-year-old daughters, who were often on the move with activities from drama rehearsals to sports practices. They enjoyed spending time as a family going fishing, skiing, or taking a bike ride to the local ice cream shop.

How life has changed: Abby says they “are spending more time with our kids and each other than ever before. This is longer than any vacation, sabbatical, or maternity/paternity leave we’ve taken.” Both kids are home from school doing virtual learning, which has proven challenging with kids at different schools. The family is also navigating the fact that the kids’ schedules went from jam-packed to practically empty, leaving them with lots of extra time.

Challenges so far: Abby and Scott agree that they both have demanding, yet reasonably flexible jobs. They’ve discovered that working a normal schedule with the kids home is impossible. “This is not typical working from home — this is trying to work from home during a global pandemic,” says Abby. “It’s not realistic for us to ignore the kids from eight to five while we work.” The kids are not only at home, but are also expected to complete classes virtually. “Sometimes you have to put the phone on mute and stop paying attention to your meeting to address a question,” Abby says. “I had to do that a couple of weeks ago because there were tears [from one daughter] about a poetry project.”

How the family is coping: “This virus is like a cloud over all of us,” Scott says. “We need to understand that our kids might get upset or sad and might not get work done today, and that’s okay.” Abby adds: “While we are so fortunate that no one in our family is sick, there are other types of grief that many are feeling from missing out on things … it takes an emotional toll on people.”

Abby explains that the family is using structure to help them. “We’ve taken some of the Intel mindset, with ARs (actions required) and program management, and used that with the kids,” she says. “We’ve actually found it very helpful. We bought a whiteboard and have everyone write down their weekly ARs and keep track of their progress.”

Abby and Scott add that they’re making sure to get outside and go on walks for some fresh air and for a break in the day. On their family whiteboard, physical activity is scheduled daily.

Biggest takeaways: “Some things aren’t that important. What’s really important is family, friends, community, and health,” Scott says.

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