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After the expansion, the EMD daycare center has more than 50 additional spots for children of EMD employeesStage Image

After the expansion, the EMD daycare center has more than 50 additional spots for children of EMD employees

© EMD/Lichtbildatelier Eva Speith, Darmstadt

EMD daycare center

A tradition of promoting work-life balance

2014/6/18

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More and more companies are recognizing the need to help their employees reconcile the demands of having a family and a career. At EMD, this policy has been part of the corporate culture for decades. The EMD daycare center was founded in 1968. At the end of 2013 the company expanded the center by constructing a modern new building and adding spots for 50 more children.

  • Heike Eckelhöfer has been the head of the EMD daycare center since 2003
  • Heike Eckelhöfer has been the head of the EMD daycare center since 2003
    © EMD/Lichtbildatelier Eva Speith, Darmstadt

    The EMD daycare center is one of the oldest industry-operated institutions of its kind in Germany. In 1968, members of the Merck family established the daycare center association to mark the company's 300th anniversary. This association continues to operate the center today, and in 2013 it invested EUR 3.5 million in the expansion of this fixed point of the corporate culture.

    The investment is a further step in a long series of sponsoring activities. It financed the addition of 1,400 square meters of space and spots for 50 more children. Now there are spots for 60 children up to three years of age, 60 spots for older children of nursery and preschool age, and an afterschool center for school children up to the age of 12. A total of 150 children of employees can be looked after at the center.

    “It's a matter of the heart to give the children room to grow — space that gives them ample opportunities for living“

    Karin Kraft
    Chairperson
    Daycare Center Association

    After the construction of the new building was completed, the older children in effect became builders themselves. The younger children moved into the new building, and the children's conference resolved that the older children could decorate the newly vacated rooms in the old building in whatever way they liked. Small "lots" were marked out for individual children to decorate as they wanted; the children at the center are learning to use their freedom responsibly. 

    Outside their overall group activities, they decide within their group what they will individually build, explore or play. In the process, no child is left alone. The ratio of childcare staff to children is one to four in the crèche, one to seven in the kindergarten, and one to ten in the afterschool center. "This may be a unique situation," says Heike Eckelhöfer, an educator who has been the head of the EMD daycare center since 2003. 

    Very few daycare centers enjoy such high ratios of childcare staff to children. This is a sign of high quality and one of the many reasons why there is such a demand for these spots among EMD employees. That is also true of the 16 new childcare staff positions that were created by the expansion of the center.
  • The EMD daycare center offers up to 50 hours of childcare a weekEnlarge
  • The EMD daycare center offers up to 50 hours of childcare a week
    © EMD/Lichtbildatelier Eva Speith, Darmstadt

    Built according to state-of-the-art standards


    Heike Eckelhöfer leads a tour through the new rooms, which are flooded with light, lovingly decorated, and brimming with state-of-the-art technology. "The new building is a passive house," she explains. The air inside the building is kept at a comfortable temperature by geothermal energy brought in by an underground heat exchanger. That saves heating energy and creates a noticeably comfortable indoor atmosphere.

    The EMD site, which is located only 300 meters away, is also an important resource. "We get a lot of support from it," says Eckelhöfer. For one thing, the site cafeteria prepares the meals for the children's new bistro-style dining areas. There is also a feeling of safety due to the knowledge that the company is big enough to have a fire department of its own. One hopes that there will never be a need for it, but the children enjoy opportunities to admire the fire engines.

    They also enjoy the annual "Researchers' Week," when EMD apprentices perform experiments at the daycare center to spur the children's interest in the natural sciences. EMD apprentices also come to the daycare center on "Social Day," for example to make repairs in the outdoor area of the center.

  • Karin Kraft is the Chairperson of the EMD Daycare Center Association
  • Karin Kraft is the Chairperson of the EMD Daycare Center Association
    © EMD

    Opportunities for holistic development

    2014/6/18

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    Karin Kraft, the Chairperson of the Daycare Center Association, is a member of the Merck family, like all the other association members. "For me, it's a matter of the heart to give the children room to grow — space that gives them ample opportunities for living and learning," she says. Most of the parents support this aim. The association's members range between 18 and 94 years in age. "Our members include representatives of every generation," says Kraft. The organization's veterans can look back on more than 45 years of successful cooperation.

    This is a rare phenomenon. Industry-operated daycare centers are not as widespread in Germany as in other countries. However, that situation is now changing. By offering family-friendly services, companies are enhancing their attractiveness for highly qualified jobseekers and employees. That is especially true of the EMD daycare center in Darmstadt, which can accommodate children as young as six months, if necessary. As a rule, however, the newcomers are a bit older. The center can offer up to 50 hours of daycare a week, or as few as 25 or 35. Parents can choose schedules according to their individual needs.

    Seven-year-old Samantha feels at home here, and so do her four-year-old twin brothers. Did the architect of the new building also talk to these children? "Of course!" says Samantha. It's clear that she would have considered it very wrong if he had not asked the children for their opinions. When she is asked what she likes about the daycare center, her answer is a very firm and serious "Everything" — friends, childcare staff, lots of activity, and the new building, which is painted in the same colors as a fresh apple, only backwards: white on the outside and bright green on the inside.

    "Sometimes my workday at EMD lasts a bit longer, because of a meeting, for example," says Anett Moschner, Samantha's mother. "But even then, the children still often ask me, 'Why are you coming so early? Why can't we stay a bit longer?'" Anett Moschner, who has long been a member of the Parents' Advisory Committee, helped to design the daycare center, in cooperation with the childcare staff, the Merck family, the children, and their parents. This close cooperation is one of the center's strong points, and so is the team spirit behind it.

    "We believe that this family support is a value that we want to continue practicing in the center," says Karin Kraft. "And it's one of the main reasons we feel justified in calling ourselves a family-friendly company."

     
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