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Louise Crocker

Senior Scientist

3 minute read

In her own words Louise Crocker tells her story.

I’ve worked at NPL for 25 years and currently work in the Advanced Engineering Materials team. Alongside my usual work, I run the Parents’ Network. As a parent, it's really good that NPL is now so flexible in terms of hybrid working. When I came back to work after my first maternity leave, I could only do two days a week to start with because that was all the space they had at the nursery, which made getting back into the swing of work hard. I have changed my hours over the years. I now work 4 shorter days a week and really appreciate the flexibility of hybrid working. It's made a massive difference for me not feeling like I'm missing out on things because I work part time. When I used to be on-site every day, I had to leave at 2:15 to get back for the school run and often felt I was missing out on important meetings. Whereas now, I can work from home and adjust my schedule to balance my commitments between work and home. I am able to attend key afternoon meetings, and this helps my career.

During my time at NPL I've had many group leaders. Generally, they've been pretty good, but there have been some that have been less supportive than others. When I was expecting my daughter, my second pregnancy, my group leader was quite new to NPL. He often referred to me and my colleague as the “little ladies”. It didn’t bother me at the time but other men in the group complained as they didn't like it, and this changed the way we were addressed. It wasn't done in a nasty way, but this was 16 years ago, things have definitely changed since then.

There was another time with a different group leader who, while I was on maternity leave, arranged for us to meet. He hadn’t arranged a meeting room, so I met up with him outside one of our buildings with my youngest son in his pushchair. He told me that he didn’t see the benefit of me being in his group. He said he thought I should change group and that he was going to sort that out for me. When I returned to work I didn’t hear anything from either my new or old group leader. So, after a month I had to reach out because no one was checking up on me. It's quite a struggle coming back to work when you’ve not worked for a year, and you’d much rather be at home with your children. This is made much harder if you feel like you're not actually wanted back at work. Luckily once everything was sorted, my new group leader was very supportive.

When my family were young a key part in attaining a good work-life balance was the onsite nursery. With the difference in costs between that and my local nurseries, it meant I could afford to come back to work. It was also good to know the children were close by during the day. It's hard, in some ways, travelling with the kids all the time but knowing that you don’t need to worry about traffic to get back home to a local nursery to pick them up by a deadline made a huge difference.

NPL understand the need for flexibility and work-life balance. They’re invested in the people rather than wanting you to do your work and that’s it. I think NPL's really good at allowing you to carve out your own career and take ownership of your work. You feel like you're really contributing without feeling like you have to climb the ranks. There’s a lot of support and encouragement for people to keep developing themselves.

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