Coworking has evolved greatly over the past few years. We’ve seen operators go from hot-desking and open space, to hybrid models that offer the best of both worlds, to niche spaces that cater to specific needs–anywhere from cooking to music, all the way to cannabis. Yet, if there’s one thing that flexible workspace operators continue to struggle with no matter how hard they try or how much they innovate, its coworking with childcare.
Allwork spoke with various industry experts that have embarked on the journey of coworking with childcare. Some have failed, some have succeeded, but none have entirely given up on the subject.
So what exactly is it about coworking and childcare that makes it so challenging? A plethora of reasons, that’s for sure. Here’s what operators have to say about the matter.
Diane Rothschild, former President and CEO of coworking hub Nextspace tried combining the two, but ultimately closed the program she called “NextKids” due to the overall cost of maintaining a thriving childcare program. Revenue is an obstacle in the success of any coworking space, and if you add in the operational and financial challenges that come with childcare, the challenge becomes a bigger monster to tackle and one that’s beaten one too many operators.
In the United States, state licensing rules make it tough to obtain a legally, zoned childcare center either within or adjacent to a coworking space. In a recent New York Times article, the founder of Brooklyn coworking space CoHatchery, Wendy Xiao Schadeck, insisted that “the synergy of having them together increases the price and parents will have to pay a premium for the convenience.”
Ms. Schadeck had tried to combine childcare and coworking in her initial space, but she closed the childcare portion last summer. However, their current homepage announces that they are going to try again and launch the combined effort across the river in New York City.
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“In North Carolina, you do not have to be a licensed or accredited childcare facility if you only offer part-time care,” says Lis Tyroler, cofounder of the coworking and childcare space Nido. “As we expand, we are dealing with astronomical upfit costs for plumbing and design in order to become licensed. We believe that our current members will benefit from our full-day care,” she added.
“There’s a lot of red tape!”, exclaimed Deborah Engel, the founder of her coworking and childcare center Work and Play in South Orange, New Jersey. “The process took a painfully long time and we couldn’t renovate the building until almost a year after we purchased it. With childcare, there’s environmental testing and other testings–so the costs add up. The childcare licensing process took much longer than I expected–about eight months,” Engel added.
Overseas in London, workspace operators are finding the process of combining childcare with coworking equally as arduous. According to an article in the Financial Times, Sam Aldenton, the co-founder of Second Home thinks “the city has not responded to the needs of its demographic who are choosing to work more independently.” He too, also stresses the financial burden of expensive properties combined with strict government childcare rules that make creating this type of flexibility for new parents “precarious.”
Going forward, it’s unclear whether coworking space operators both domestically and abroad will be able to streamline the process of including childcare as more new parents enter the freelancer workforce. However, the ambiguity is not discouraging many operators who seem to stop at nothing to make this type of flexibility come to fruition.
“I’m literally working all the time. There’s no proven model that combines coworking with childcare. We’re all still trying to figure it out,” Engel said.