19 Jun 2020 03:00:00 PM

New Norm Dads: 3 Malaysians Share Their Work-From-Home Experience During the MCO

These Malaysian Dads Share Their Work-From-Home Experience During the MCO

In conjunction with Father’s Day, these 3 dads share their experience of balancing their professional and personal lives amidst a global pandemic. 

Back in March when the Government announce the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO), many working parents were left juggling between their work, childcare and household duties. 

In many societies, mothers often carry the heavier load when it comes to parenting and childcare. However, in the past few lockdown months, we’ve seen more dads stepping up and playing a more active role by equally sharing the responsibility of parenthood, as well as household chores with their spouses.

But what happens when both parents have to work? How do they cope with the blurred lines of their homes and professional lives with no real clear divide, exacerbated by the MCO? 

For this year’s Father’s Day special, we spoke to 3 Malaysian dads to learn how they navigated through the ‘new normal’. Here are their stories.


Lance Cheang, 39, Entrepreneur, aka “The I-Got-This Dad”

Photo credit: Lance Cheang.
Lance and his daughter at his home office.

For Lance, working from home is something that he’s quite used too as he has been practising it for a while. Lance even has a daily schedule to ensure that both his work and household duties run together smoothly. 

“I’m not someone who can sit in the office all day, and I’ve never been one to enforce a work-in-office rule with my team. We started implementing Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) even before the MCO, so we were quite well-prepared”. 

Always the optimist, Lance didn’t feel the challenge was about working from home. Rather, it was the ripple effect of his clients’ businesses not operating, resulting in his own company being severely affected. 

“We have to take it one day at a time. I continue to coach our team leaders to be better at engaging their subordinates. We made it clear that we didn’t want to retrench anyone, so everyone agreed to a salary deferment - with interest - to help the company get through this period.”

The MCO has made Lance realise that businesses can be operational even without a physical office. He is even considering closing his office to fully operate from home, sharing, 

“I think the MCO was a good thing and it accelerated my plans to decentralise my company.”

On the personal front, Lance enjoys being with his wife and daughter constantly during the MCO. Household chores such as cooking and cleaning are equally divided between husband and wife. 

“We ran a tight ship; I was out of areas to clean three weeks into the lockdown!” he laughs.

Photo credit: Lance Cheang
Lance said he enjoys constantly having his wife and daughter around.

Lance’s only concern is for his 4-year-old daughter’s emotional development, as she doesn’t get to interact with kids her age with schools being closed. 
“My wife and I take turns looking after her and tutoring her the best we can. Now that parks are open, I also take time to cycle with my daughter.”

When asked about work-life balance for dads, Lance claims that the concept is no longer relevant. Instead he believes in work-life convergence. 
“As an entrepreneur, I switch on anytime, anyplace. I can be working on a proof of concept over a cup of coffee on a Saturday, or chatting with a client on Sunday, without neglecting my family.”
“The MCO just accelerated the inevitable,” he says.

Firdaus Kamarulzaman, 33, Civil Servant, aka “The I’m-New-To-This Dad”

Photo credit: Firdaus Kamarulzaman.
Firdaus helping his son with virtual classes.

As a civil servant, Firdaus never had the benefit of working from home. It’s something his organisation does not practice as the nature of his work environment requires physical presence at the office. 

When the MCO was announced, the organisation had some difficulties, as they didn’t know where to start.

“We didn’t have the necessary resources to work from home, and we couldn’t implement a Standard Operating Procedure in time. Most of us had to pick up learning how to use on-line tools like Zoom overnight.”

“I even bought a new home desktop to adapt to this new norm.”

Firdaus admits that the first few works were challenging. On top of adjusting to a new work arrangement, Firdaus is dad to a 5-year-old son and a newborn baby girl, and his wife who had just given birth needed all the help she could get. 

“Time management and scheduling ahead is key. I had to join virtual meetings and con-calls almost every day. At the same time, my son started attending virtual classes, and we had to come up with a schedule that worked for us.”
Photo credit: Firdaus Kamarulzaman.
Firdaus had the opportunity to be more involved with his newborn.

Firdaus made sure to set boundaries on the amount of time he would spend on work, taking breaks in between to avoid burning out. The MCO also made him realise that perhaps he did not spend enough quality time with his family. 
“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise! I was able to be more involved with caring for my newborn, as well as spending more time with my wife and son.” 
“It’s the little things, like helping my son with his homework, or feeding my baby girl while my wife rests.” 

After this experience, Firdaus hopes that the public sector can better adapt to the rapidly changing workplace, as he believes that work-from-home should be available for all employees. 

“Organisations can also look into other FWAs like Compressed Work and Staggered Hours,” he concludes.

Suraj Kumar Shanmugam, 45, General Manager aka “The Let’s-Do-It-Together Dad”
Photo credit: Suraj Kumar Shanmugam.
Suraj said that working from home during the MCO was an entirely different experience.

Suraj, a dad to 3 teenagers, describes his work-life balance as ideal even before the MCO. As a general manager at a rehabilitation facility, he has the benefit of working from home when he needs to. 

However, Suraj claims that working from home during the MCO was a completely different ballgame.

“I’m an outgoing person, especially at work. I always need to meet clients to build business relationships. That’s how I bring in the business. So being at home all the time was initially difficult, and it took some time getting used to.”

As Suraj couldn’t meet his clients physically, he made sure to stay connected to them via e-mails and con-calls. 

While tackling the challenges at work, Suraj also had to deal with his child’s learning environment during the MCO. As schools were on lockdown, on-line learning quickly became the new norm for students. Taking advantage of this situation, Suraj’s children were hooked on to their gadgets without due supervision. 

“They started abusing their freedom! I would catch them playing games instead of studying. My wife and I discussed about putting some restrictions in place. We limited their screen time. I also became more involved in their studies, identifying their weak subjects and helping them with homework.”

Photo credit: Suraj Kumar Shanmugam.
Suraj and his kids experienced cooking outdoors for the first time during MCO.

With three active teenagers at home, Suraj and his wife knew they needed to come up with a duty schedule that worked for everyone. They set out a task list for their children which included household chores like cooking, cleaning and laundry. 
“Everybody had to help out. We made it a family responsibility. The next thing you know, I was spending more time with my wife and children.”
“Household duties become less of a task as we enjoyed each other’s company. I became more involved at home,” he said. 

Having gone through the MCO, Suraj feels that many more Malaysian employees can benefit from working from home. He hopes that more companies are open to putting in place multiple types of FWAs moving forward, as it brings positive effects to family harmony. 

Happy Father’s Day to all dads! You truly are real-life SUPERHEROES. 

Whether your company is exploring Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) or enhancing them more effectively to support the New Normal, TalentCorp can provide you with end-to-end advisory support. Get in touch with us at flexworklife@talentcorp.com.my.