Microsoft has an on-site creche. Vikki Grimes is one of the first parents to benefit and says it has made her working life much easier.
When he started school four years ago Vikki Grimes’ son Oliver was the longest serving child at Microsoft’s on-site creche. Oliver started at the creche the day it opened when he was two. Before that he went to a nursery 20 minutes from his home in Sunninghill, near Ascot. The nursery only opened at 8am and closed at 6pm and Vikki says it was always a dash to get there on time. “I felt awful that he was the first in and the last out,” says Vikki, a training manager who went back to work full time after Oliver was born.
When he transferred to the Microsoft creche he was literally 50 yards from where Vikki worked. Now he goes to school, but his brother Sam is at the creche.
Vikki says having the children nearby when they have been young has made life much easier. Children at the creche have an area in the canteen with coloured tables and pictures. “They are made to feel very welcome,” says Vikki. She adds that having them so near gives them confidence. “They know where you are and if they need you you can be there in seconds,” she says, adding that if Sam’s key worker wants a word she can pop into the cafe by the nursery and talk. Another positive is that a lot of the parents know each other so the creche provides a working parent support group as well as a more formal one which meets monthly.
Vikki’s husband also works at Microsoft, whose UK HQ is in Reading and houses 2,500 staff in five buildings. This means both he and Vikki can do the morning drop-off. “It’s more flexible for us,” she says.
The creche is not subsidised, but the fee is paid out of parents’ gross salary so it saves money on tax.
Vikki’s job is to train Microsoft employees for the kinds of issues they may face in their roles, for instance, through offering business strategy and professional skills training. Vikki took on the job after coming back from maternity leave with Sam. She was initially covering another maternity leave, but then the training opportunity came up. She started on four days a week then reduced to three. She now splits those three days over four days so she leaves at 2.30pm on two days and does longer days on the other two [9.30am-6.30pm]. This means she can pick up Oliver from school.
She still retains her full-time place in the creche for Sam, though, which allows her the flexibility to bring him in if she needs to switch her days. Her husband has a very demanding full time job with a lot of travel so she says her role needs to be flexible. The flexibility works both ways. She can ask to switch days if there is a school inset day, for instance, or can do a five-day week if there are a lot of demands at work.
Her mother is also nearby and looks after Oliver after school on her long days at work. In the holidays, her husband’s parents, who have both remarried, help out. Vikki can also ask to do three days in the summer and friends help out. Plus Oliver goes to summer clubs. “I have to put my foot down in the summer,” she says. “If a meeting is not essential and is not on one of my working days I will rearrange it. I also get a lot done via conference calls.” She is fortunate in that she is part of a group within Microsoft who are globally based. There are only nine people in her readiness training group and a lot of their work is done across different time zones and via conference calls.
“We are treated as adults,” she says.”I don’t have to clock in and out. It is up to me how to use my experience to meet the goals I have.”
She admits that the work can be demanding and she would like to work from home more, but likes to be near people because of the kind of work she does. “I could not work from home full time. I really enjoy being around people and understanding what they need from us,” she says. “It’s very important for me to feel part of a team.”
She says she has “a horrible work ethic” so often ends up doing more hours than she should. “I tell my managers they are getting a good deal!” she laughs. She has a 25-minute journey home in the afternoon and adds that having Sam in the car with her makes the time go quickly. “It’s a nice time to have to talk and have a chuckle,” she says.
In December she is having two months off work on parental leave as Sam is starting school in the new year. “It’s a good time to be with Sam to settle him into school and for us to all get into a new routine,” she says.