By Jeff Rittener, Chief Government Affairs Officer and General Manager of Intel’s Governments, Markets and Trade group (GMT)
The impact of COVID-19 on the economy, healthcare systems and day to day life of people has been seen around the globe. Governments are working overtime to meet the needs of their citizens and businesses. Citizens have pitched in by taking directions from public officials, whether that is to shelter in place or provide needed volunteer services to their fellow countrymen and women. Businesses have temporarily suspended services, or, in many cases, reimagined their operations to continue to provide essential products and services to customers in a totally new environment.
As disruptive as this pandemic has been both for public health and the economy, citizens around the world are eager to safely return to work. Public health experts have cautioned that returning citizens to work and restarting the economy should be a phased approach that takes into consideration the rate of new infections as well as the preparedness of institutions and infrastructure to help prevent the further spread of the virus.
Intel is well positioned to work with government officials to help society defeat COVID-19 and regain a sense of normalcy. As one of the world’s largest semiconductor chip designers and manufacturers, our technology is used in more than 95% of internet, communications, and government digital infrastructures in today’s global economy, according to IDC, an industry market research firm. Throughout this pandemic, Intel has worked hard to maintain essential operations by providing critical technology for use in healthcare, hospital systems, virtual learning, remote working environments, data centers and cloud services that run the internet, and critical manufacturing and service industries.
This paper outlines Intel’s efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our own operations as well as contributions we are making that support global response and readiness of healthcare, education and government organizations. It also outlines Intel’s recommendations and return-to-work plan, based on current information and in accordance with local regulations.
Working Together with the Global Governments to Defeat COVID-19
Intel has a long history of commitment to responsible, ethical operations, sustainability and improving our community. We understand that the COVID-19 fight is not over and have been working throughout the company to identify areas where Intel technology and expertise can make a meaningful impact.
In April, Intel launched the Intel Pandemic Response Technology Initiative. This $50 million technology initiative is focused on areas where we believe Intel is uniquely positioned to make a difference in combating this virus and others that may occur in the future:
- Response & Readiness—to accelerate advances in diagnosis, treatment and vaccines for COVID-19 and to prepare for future pandemics
- Online Learning—to support education-focused non-profit organizations and business partners to help students without access to technology
- Innovation Fund—to support requests and fuel new ideas from external partners and employee-led projects addressing critical needs and areas of immediate impact
The Intel Pandemic Technology Initiative builds on the $10 million in contributions we’ve already made in support of those on the frontlines of the pandemic in the communities where we operate. Those donations include 1 million gloves, masks and other equipment for healthcare workers, $6 million from the Intel Foundation toward relief efforts in local communities and $4 million from Intel and its subsidiaries around the globe.
In addition, supporting and safeguarding our employees has been our first priority in responding to the COVID-19 challenge. We are investing more than $100M in added employee support and recognition. This includes appreciation awards and meals for employees who have continued to perform essential jobs on-site and added benefits for all employees including back-up childcare reimbursements, reimbursement for work-from-home expenses and expanded US healthcare benefits.
Intel’s “Return to Work” Plan
From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Intel has prioritized worker safety. Governments have provided important guidance to businesses throughout the crisis. Intel’s operations have been deemed an “essential business” and its employees and contractors “essential workers” in every jurisdiction that has considered those issues. Intel’s own approach, however, has significantly limited the number of workers at our many sites across the world to enable social distancing. The vast majority of Intel’s workers are working remotely and we have limited workers on site to perform only the critical functions needed to design and manufacture our technologies. Once public health officials have determined it is safe to resume non-essential operations at workplace locations, we will begin to implement a return to work plan that, at a minimum, is aligned with county and state guidelines in the areas where Intel operates.
Maintaining Safe Factory Operations at Intel
Intel’s factories use clean rooms that are many times cleaner than a hospital. Our factories have been well-equipped to operate safely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Intel workers whose work can be performed remotely are currently working from home, and Intel only allows workers in its factories who are essential to the factories’ operations. As we plan to return more functions to the workplace, the protective and preventative measures we have implemented to protect the health and well-being of our global workforce will continue. Those measures currently include:
- Social distancing is essential in workplace facilities—staggering of shifts to limit crowding, more than 50% of the seating in our cafeterias has been removed or cafes have been reconfigured for carry out only, conference rooms are limited to half occupancy and all meetings to 10 or fewer
- Nonessential facilities associated with our factories (for example, gyms) are closed
- Expanded cleaning of our workspaces on an increased frequency with appropriate disinfectants and other safeguards
- Body temperature screening at facility entrances where required, and distribution of thermometers to workers at other locations, along with instructions for daily health monitoring
- Distribution of facemasks to workers onsite
- Business travel limited to only essential/business critical travel
- Facility visitors limited and screened prior to entry
Intel’s reopening is based on a decision matrix and scoring approach that will guide a phased reopening of sites around the world to ensure the safety and health of our workforce. The decision matrix factors in local, regional and national government policies, data on community transmission, and COVD-19 case trends. The framework also outlines phased implementation of key operational parameters–including site services such as environmental, health and safety; security; information technology; and human resources–to ensure that the company is well-coordinated through each phase of the plan to safely bring our workers worldwide back to our many Intel sites across the world.
Lessons Learned to Help in Nationwide Reopening
Governments and businesses have gleaned significant insight in how to best handle COVID-19 based on transmission rates and attempts to prevent further transmission through regulation and other means in various countries and among different sizes of populations. Intel has a variety of sites in China today, from factories to sales offices, and is already gradually returning to normal operations in the region, in strict accordance with local, regional and national government guidelines. There have been many lessons learned during the reopening of facilities around the world that are broadly applicable for governments. Not being virology experts, Intel simply offers its own observations based solely on experience as a global company.
First, any plan for reopening should be predicated on data that suggest a sustained decline in new and active cases, adequate domestic supply of personal protective equipment, ample hospital surge capacity and strategies that address vulnerable populations.
Once those resources are secured, a government should consider reopening first with the critical service industries that underpin both the current essential workforce and the future returning workforce:
- Transportation – Workers of all types need access to transportation, including buses, subways, and trains that are safe and can accommodate continued social distancing.
- Childcare – Schools, camps and other childcare services need to resume with the right measures in place before parents can begin working outside the home.
- Dining – Work facilities must ensure access to the safe and healthy delivery of food and dining facilities that accommodate continued social distancing.
Second, social distancing practices, regular cleaning, and other safety measures should continue in all businesses to ensure the health and safety of workers and customers. For example, reconfiguring desks in workspaces if necessary.
Third, those who can work from home effectively should continue to do so for at least some transitional period to allow those who must physically be at the worksite to be able to meet social distancing practices. During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and workers around the world have demonstrated the effectiveness of remote work through technological tools.
Path Toward Economic Recovery
In this time of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty, Intel’s top priority has been protecting the health and well-being of workers while keeping our essential business running for our customers and the communities where we operate. Even as we continue working to ensure that Intel’s critical labs, manufacturing facilities and supply chain remain operational during the next phase in the fight against COVID-19, we acknowledge the impact that this pandemic has had on economies around the world. According to the International Labour Organization, stay-at-home orders are estimated to have impacted 2.7 billion workers worldwide, with a predicted 200 million workers experiencing job loss.
As we work to return a sense of normalcy—undoubtedly a “new normal”—to our workers around the world, we look forward to sharing with government officials and the larger business community the best practices we have identified to date that will help ease the transition for others so that we can all move more quickly toward economic recovery.