Many harried working parents will probably agree that having some kind of childcare at work will relieve the stress of juggling the daily commute, work and family duties. In recent years, some larger companies have been providing onsite childcare as an extra incentive for employees. According to the Parenting in the Workplace Institute, some 200 companies and organizations in the United States have some kind of "babies at work" policy, or allowing parents to work remotely and schedule things around family commitments.
But what about co-working spaces?We know that the emerging trend of self-employed workers and self-starting entrepreneurs in a growing gig economy has translated in a worldwide explosion of co-working spaces all over the world. According to small-business consulting firm Emergent Research, 1 million people around the world will be using co-working spaces by 2018. The future of work as we know it is changing, and the question is, will that co-working future include some kind of childcare on the premises?
The answer is that it might. One draw of co-working spaces is that they are supposed to offer a better work-life balance, giving users flexibility, networking opportunities and a chance to learn or share skills. So it would only make sense that some of these spaces would try to cater to new parents who are not only looking for a co-working community, but perhaps also a place where their children can be looked after while they work.
It's a great idea in theory, but in practice, the idea of combining co-working with childcare can be complicated to implement. A big factor is money, plus regulations, notes Jo Disney over at AllWork:
Money makes the world go round, and revenue is a significant obstacle in the success of any coworking space. The addition of childcare throws a plethora of new financial and operational challenges into the mix, from qualified staff and salaries to local regulations, licensing, property lease terms, health and safety, and the inevitable red tape minefield.
[Dash's] solution? What she lightly calls the “Ikea Rule”, a loophole of sorts in the state’s laws that allows for childcare to be provided without all the additional requirements as long as the service is for three hours or less per child per day and the guardian is a customer of the business (i.e. Ikea and gyms).
Another potential hurdle is marketing, notes Diana Rothschild, former president and CEO of NextSpace and founder of NextKids, a San Francisco-based coworking and childcare space that recently folded after three years of operation, due to high rents. Rothschild points out that child-friendly coworking spaces are relatively new and require "fine-tuned marketing" to ensure that people don't mistakenly think that an on-site child-minding service will create a noisy work atmosphere -- usually, it doesn't.
Even with a lot of savvy marketing, people still might not sign up. Part of of the reason is that engrained cultural beliefs are slow to shift, says Jill Salzman, founder of The Founding Moms, a collective of meetups and online resources for "mompreneurs":
Until there is serious market demand, the market won’t provide. People are so used to separating children from business. The two just do not go along in our culture. If there was more chatter about it, people would get more used to the idea.
There is nevertheless sizeable interest in child-friendly co-working, and the business model is constantly evolving as family-oriented operators are learning from each other to see what works and what doesn't. As the Chicago Tribute reports, some are experimenting with not only on-site babysitting services, but also offering birthday parties and open play hours, to give parents more choice and incentive to join in.
In any case, only time -- and perhaps updated regulations -- will tell whether this forward-thinking concept will take off. After all, we've already got co-working spaces with workout areas, climbing walls or even gaming consoles on-site, not to mention other spin-offs like global co-living subscriptions, co-working boats and co-working vacations. The need is evident, and if successful co-working spaces can be likened to intentional communities, it may only be a matter of time before adequate and affordable childcare is added to the co-working mix.
List of coworking spaces with childcareHere are some places around the world that offer both co-working and some form of childcare on the side, via AllWork and Global Workspace.
United StatesBrooklyn Explorers Academy offers preschool and summer camps and co-working; The Workaround is a Brooklyn-based collective that offers childcare swaps; Work And Play is in New Jersey; Cultivate and Nest runs out of Hadley, Massachusetts; Women's Business Incubator in Seattle, Washington is offering drop-in pre-K in February 2017; CoWork CoPlay in Arlington, Virginia also provides childcare to non-members; Play Work Dash operates out of Vienna, Virginia; Nido in Durham, North Carolina offers a Montessori-style classroom. Opening soon in the San Francisco Bay Area is The Garden by Equal Play.
CanadaToronto: Working Ensemble, child-friendly co-working space, parents must stay on-site; Cultiv8tor, a family-friendly co-working community, also offers camps and co-learning workshops.
Calgary: The Bridge Coworks
United Kingdom & EuropeUK: Third Door (London); OffiCrèche (Brighton); ImpactHub (Birmingham) has a ‘co-crèche’ partnership with childcare company Famalam
France: CoworkCrèche (Paris)
Germany: Rockzipfel (Leipzig)
Italy: CoBaby at PianoC (Milan); Qf (Milan); L’alveare (Rome)
AsiaSingapore: Trehaus has a Kid's Atelier with activities
Japan: Hatch Cowork + Kids (Tokyo); Ryozan Park Otsuka (Tokyo)
If you know one, please add it in the comments below!
Melbourne: Happy Hubbub, users can get child care rebates