There are hundreds of coworking spaces, with a variety of features and amenities. One of the most requested, yet rarest seen “amenity” is childcare. “Coworking with kids” might be the hot trend for 2016. (You heard it here first!)
However, a quick search will reveal that very few cowork spaces have childcare in any form. I found about a dozen sites in the US, either current or planned. This must be something like 1% of coworking spaces. Almost none at all. (The story may be different in other parts of the world, as does general social services for childcare.)
Many cowork spaces are aimed at nomadic workers and at young (childless) start uppers. But the community of freelancers and work-from-homers is filled with parents who need to balance work and child care. So it’s obvious why this would be a very desirable option for a cowork space to offer.
If so many people want it, why are so few offering childcare?
First of all, this is in line with the general picture for childcare in the US. Childcare is hard to find and most employers make no effort to provide it on site. Second, and related to the first, childcare providers are heavily regulated (partly in response to media driven panic 30 years ago), which makes it complex and expensive to create and operate a childcare service.
While it is not difficult to find office space that can be turned to coworking, it is not necessarily as easy to find space that can be adapted for both worker and children’s space in the same place. Kelly Baug comments in The New Worker “The most common problem for coworking-with-childcare businesses today is finding an appropriate location.” For example, parking is optional for cowork spaces, but essential for child care spaces. Also, it is important to arrange close but sound proofed work and kids spaces.
Of course, the entrepreneurial spirit of coworkers is not to be deterred by difficulties and challenges! In a tide of innovation, cowork + childcare is happening, in many places, and in several forms.
One of the interesting variations is “permanent vs pop up”. Some cowork spaces are designed with space for both workers and kids, with workers and kids part of the sustained community. As Diana Rothschild of NextKids says, the kids “crave the community and consistency” that comes from being with the same kids every day while mom and dad work next door. And, of course, the parents are happy to have a community of other parents.
A different variation is The Workaround in NYC, which is designed for drop ins—when mom or dad needs to get work done, they can schedule a play session and then work next door.
A third point on this spectrum would be Collide in Chicago offers “pop up” baby sitting for coworkers, when needed. Collide works with locations to have kids spaces available, and then provides baby sitters on demand. Collide serves a number of cowork spaces in the city.
It is interesting to note that some of the services are conceived as cowork spaces with childcare availalble, and others are childcare services with coworking available! Indeed, Work and Play in West Orange, NJ, offers “Free coworking with coplay”. Considering the challenges of setting up child care spaces, it certainly seems reasonable for coworking to be a relatively simple add on.
I would note that, in contrast to the “college dorm” vibe of some cowork spaces—nerf gun fights, all nighters, Friday keggers—several kidful cowork spaces are available for kid’s birthday parties. Certainly a different “culture”.
Given the regulatory and logistic challenges of formal child care spaces, coworkers are no doubt improvising informal solutions, trading off baby sitting and work time with each other. For that matter, home coworking a la Reimagination Station would naturally adapt to these situations.
Obviously, childcare can be a benefit to the whole community. Kidful coworking is, naturally, part of the program in spaces aiming to serve women. But it is also attractive to people who don’t have kids (at this time). For that matter, kidful cowork spaces might be ideal satellite offices for small companies to rent for working their working moms and dads, if they can’t offer on-site day care.
One way or another, coworkers will solve this problem.
- Kelly Baug, “Having it all: coworking with childcare”, The New Worker, 12/18/2014
- Aubre Andrus, What it takes to set up a successful coworking space with childcare, http://mashable.com/2015/06/06/coworking-spaces-childcare/#qbVyas3Vriqz
- Aubre Andrus, “7 coworking spaces with childcare designed for better work-life balance,” http://mashable.com/2015/06/13/coworking-spaces-with-childcare/#d7StDjnSyZqm
- Sonia Gandiaga, “Co-Working & Kids: 9 Awesome Spaces with Childcare”
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