Over the course of 20+ years since the first shared office spaces started popping up all over the world, the coworking industry has gone through its fair share of changes. The first offices with flexible desks, which opened in the second half of the 1990’s, weren’t even called coworking hubs back then, but instead were referred to as “hackerspaces.” As a matter of fact, the term ‘coworking office’ was only coined in 2005, at a time when they offered just the bare minimum: desks, chairs, a stable internet connection and a few office supplies.
A lot of things have changed since then, with over 14,000 coworking hubs functioning in the world today, a number which is set to hit 3.8 million by 2020 and 5.1 million by 2022. With this sudden boom comes a lot of competition, enabling these office spaces to provide newer features, cooler perks and more diverse amenities to help them stay on top and continuously lure in new members.
This fierce competition has resulted in a broad variety of services, which individuals frequenting coworking hubs absolutely love, and which range from regular networking events and designated game rooms to interesting seminars and pet-friendly grounds. Nevertheless, we were quite surprised to see the lack of amenities aimed at entrepreneurs who also happen to be parents with young children.
Working parents and the coworking industry
According to a 2018 Global Coworking Survey, merely 26% of coworking hubs are child-friendly, compared to 39% being dog-friendly. Even more astonishingly, these researchers have found that the number of shared office spaces which actually offer on-site childcare amounts to a staggeringly low 2%.
A 2017 study conducted by Deskmag came to the conclusion that the average age of entrepreneurs who frequent coworking hubs is 36 years. The oldest members, aged 40 and over, are generally well-established in their field of work, having a few staff members working with them. This group is followed by freelancers, boasting an average age of 38. With over 43% of coworking hub members still under the age of 30, it’s safe to say that Generation Y—also known as Millenials—are the major target audience of shared office spaces.
With this in mind, it’s interesting to note that the mean age of first-time mothers is 26, whilst the average age of men becoming dads for the first time is 30.9 years. This basically means that a vast majority of people working in shared office spaces already have children. Yet, only a select few coworking hubs offer on-site childcare services to members.
Obstacles in introducing childcare to coworking spaces
As it turns out, it’s not so easy to provide childcare facilities at a coworking hub. For starters, the standards for childcare licensing vary from state to state, and the requirements for them are quite demanding, to say the least. From space specifications and staff-to-child ratios to limited childcare hours, low profit margins and high rentals, these factors are merely the tip of the iceberg of the challenges that an owner of a shared office space faces when considering opening childcare facilities.
The flexible work hours and the drop-in-anytime ethic for which coworking offices are so appreciated don’t actually help in this case either. The staff needs to know upfront how many kids they have to look after on a daily basis. There’s actually a specific law regarding how many employees are required to be present in proportion to the number of children coming to the office, which is quite difficult to predict in an environment where drop-ins are encouraged.
Coworking hubs offering childcare
Despite all the hardships, a number of coworking hubs decided to tackle the challenges, face the requirements and open a kid-friendly wing offering on-site childcare facilities to their members. The non-profit Nido in Durham, North Carolina, masterfully mixes their on-site Montessori school with a designated shared office space for parents. HackerMoms even took things one step further, offering a welcoming community to mothers, with excellent childcare facilities, where they can unleash their creative talents while their children are well cared for. But these are just a couple of the many fantastic coworking spaces in the country that decided to help out members who, besides being kick-ass entrepreneurs, also happen to be parents.
Overseas, Third Door was one of the first of its kind to open in London, back in 2010. My Outspace Business Centre shortly followed suit, after a rocky start full of challenges along the way. Since then, a large number of London’s hottest coworking hubs have jumped on the kid-friendly bandwagon, offering childcare facilities to their members on-site.
We really hope that more and more coworking hubs will get wind of this new trend and integrate childcare into the wide range of services they already offer. As Millennials slowly but surely start their own families, it would certainly be reassuring for them to know that they can work on their passion projects whilst raising their children, without having to sacrifice either part of their lives. Childcare should become the new norm instead of merely being an extra feature that only 2% of the industry players can boast about.