Expecting a child is an exciting adventure that will bring many new experiences and change parts of one’s life for ever. At the same time it can make expecting parents unsure about their future with respect to their current workplace. Changing nappies is completely different to calculating bits and proposing business plans. The fear could be that the time out taken will disconnect one selves from the work environment and leave you behind in most recent developments. Microsoft Austria has found a way to stay in touch with parents on parental leave and make them feel a part of the company, even though they might not be physically present. In 2007 they launched something called “Stay Connected Breakfast” with a combination of in-house mentors who will help the parents to stay connected with Microsoft during their temporary leave. We have spoken to Charlotte, who not only has been organizing these events in the past years, but is also expecting her first child this year
1) Whose idea was this and what was the intention behind these meetings?
The idea was born because the female share in the IT Sector was growing steadily and the HR department had already been asked to deal with the subject of parental leave and the binding of the parents on leave to the company and to work on the matter of their reintegration into the company. It is very important to us, that when a mother or a father decides to go on parental leave that they stay in as close contact as possible. That is why everyone keeps their mobile phone and their laptop so they can, if they want, stay in touch and up-to-date during the whole time.
2) How often do the breakfasts take place?
They are taking place once every quarter.
3) What exactly is happening at those breakfasts and how many people attend on average?
The stay connected breakfast is a forum for mothers and fathers on parental leave to exchange experiences among each other as well as with manager, mentors and colleagues. In addition, we always invite a member of the executive management who gives an insight about the newest business developments. Especially in the fast changing IT sector it is important to stay on top of things and a regular exchange is vital. Not just for the parents on leave but for the business itself, keeping their employees up to date.
The attendance varies, but usually we have between three and eight mothers/fathers and their children/babies.
4) Could you tell us a little about the mentors and how they work?
Worldwide, Microsoft has a Mentor or Buddy System in place. Each employee has a mentor, who especially in the beginning, but also later, will help answering questions and help in every possible way. Also during the parental leave the mentor is an important contact person.
5) What is the feedback of both the parents and employees?
The breakfast is being enjoyed by many parents and colleagues and it is appreciated as a great place for exchanging experience and to stay in touch. It is absolutely lovely to watch the babies grow and to chat to the parents about their plans regarding the leave and their return to work.
Thank you very much, Charlotte, for answering my questions!!!