Flexible work centres are helping parents get back into work as well as filling childcare gaps in Australia. Over 350,000 small businesses are run by mothers, and the “mumpreneur trend” is increasing as parents look to balance work with family commitments.
Families are on the rise. By 2021 official statistics predict another 180,000 families in Australia. There will also be over 100,000 more one-parent families, of which over 80% will be headed by women.
A recent study by Chief Executive Women urged Australian employers to embrace flexibility to boost gender parity and engagement. It specifically advised enablers “such as technology for remote working, ability to work from multiple locations and provisions for childcare”.
Even with long daycare and before and after school care, a long commute to a CBD can be a struggle. Working near home may be the only way some parents can return to work. This issue has sparked the opening of several dedicated parent-focused work centres nationwide, such as the recently opened Happy Hub Bub in Melbourne and BubDesk in Perth.
BubDesk describes itself as “co-working space with a crèche”. It’s based in Perth where day care waiting lists can be 18 months long. BubDesk has a dedicated cot room and feeding chair, meeting rooms for hire, and an hourly crèche service for businesses to meet with parents on parental leave and have their child cared for.
The majority of members are small business owners, but BubDesk is also exploring partnerships with larger organisations who want to support women returning to work following parental leave.
“With our flexible business model, we are able to offer a professional and supportive work environment for women to re-connect with the business world whilst their child is in the same building,” explains Asha Stabback, Bubdesk Community Director.
BubDesk is already fully booked for some timeslots, and it’s a race to keep up with demand.
“We see demand growing for the crèche as well as an increased demand for the technological platform and equipment to grow business services. We are also already receiving more requests for large training areas and soundproof pods or places for members to have some privacy – so whilst we have the co-working space and plenty of desks, we recognise that members do also crave some quiet time and isolation for short periods of time,” Asha says.
Natasha Gallardo is CEO of Workingmothersconnect, a support community for parents returning to work. She employs several parents herself, and uses flexible workspaces to operate her business.
“They provide a fantastic and cost effective way to tap into office space when and how you need it. We run our monthly team meetings as well as client meetings when required. We have six mums who work in the business and all work from home so having a space where we can come together and have face time in a cost effective manner is wonderful,” Natasha says.
Natasha recently attended the launch of a new female founders co-working space called One Roof in Melbourne, and describes it as “packed with women entrepreneurs ready to sign up – another example of the demand right now.”
As well as flexibility and proximity, parent-focused spaces also offer support and networking opportunities.
“Coworking spaces provide such a great entrepreneurial vibe and those specifically for mums provide such a valuable opportunity to get support and just talk with other mums who understand your challenges etc,” Natasha says.
Support organisations such as [email protected] say many employers in Australia are “not running at desired capacity due to inadequate family friendly policies and practices.” According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency only 13.2% of employers have a strategy for supporting caring responsibilities. Until that improves, increasing numbers of parents will opt out of mainstream employment to “go solo”, supported by innovative, flexible work centres.
*Stay tuned, we’ll soon be covering this topic in the UK and Europe.
*Feature image grabbed from BubDesk’s website.