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Coworking spaces with childcare: a concept comes of age
Parent as though you don’t work.
Work as though you aren’t a parent.
This is the vice grip of the working mother and father today: building a financially sound career but also taking care of a growing family.
Finding affordable and convenient childcare is one of the biggest challenges they face. With daycare centers charging upwards of $1,000 per month per child in many major cities, and limited options for part-time care, parents are often left scrambling for solutions. This is where forward-thinking coworking spaces have found an opportunity to provide a much-needed service.
Alison Rogers founded Blush Cowork, a flex office community with babysitting services.
“The Harvard Business Review did a national panel survey of 2,500 working parents,” she said. “They found that nearly 20% of working parents had to leave work or reduce their work hours for one reason: a lack of childcare. And only 30% of all working parents had any form of back-up childcare. We don’t need companies to become childcare centers, but we do need employers to actively support parents. We’re here to help.”
Coworking spaces are in a unique position to help fill this childcare gap. With their communal ethos and spirit of supporting entrepreneurs, they can create affordable care options tailored to the flexible and dynamic schedules of coworking members.
Some statistics on working parents:
- There are over 31 million working parents with children under 18 in the U.S. This accounts for over 40% of the American workforce.
- Around two-thirds of children under 6 years old have either both parents or their sole parent in the labor force.
- The average cost of childcare exceeds $9,000 per year, higher than the average cost of in-state college tuition.
- Over 50% of parents have passed up a job opportunity due to problems with childcare.
- Nearly half of parents say finding summer care for kids is difficult, with costs averaging over $200 per week.
With numbers like these, it's evident that childcare is a major pain point for working parents. Coworking spaces that offer on-site care can capitalize on this need and attract parent members.
What special skills are needed to open such an operation? Passion. Focus. Drive. Just ask Alex Carnio, founder of ProducKIDvity in British Columbia.
“I’m not an early childhood educator,” Carnio said. “I’m not a coworking expert. But I knew I needed both things, and so did my community. So I reached out to people who were already doing what I wanted to do. I talked to childcare operators and coworking operators. And I found… I can do this.”
So what are some of the childcare options coworking spaces can provide?
Offering hourly drop-in care is a flexible, affordable option for members. Parents can reserve blocks of time as needed, like during important meetings or calls. Some coworking spaces hire their own sitters for this, while others partner with local care agencies. Average hourly rates are around $10-15 per hour.
For members with a more regular, predictable schedule, daily or weekly childcare slots allow them to essentially "book" recurring care in the coworking space. Monthly packages can reduce the hourly rate. Some spaces dedicate a separate kids room for this type of full-day care.
Parents' Day Out Programs
These are part-time care programs, often designed for preschool-aged children. They provide activities and socialization for kids 1-3 days per week for 4-6 hours at a time. These programs give kids social time while giving parents blocks of work time. Coworking spaces can hire early childhood educators to run these programs.
Workshops on topics like discipline, sleep training, nutrition and more provide value-add for parent members. Coworking spaces can hold these monthly or quarterly and bring in local experts as speakers.
Babysitting for Events
For special events like member mixers, seminars or happy hours, providing free babysitting allows more parent members to attend and network. Some coworking spaces hire sitters on these occasions or have members swap sitting duties.
When school is out, summer camps fill the childcare gap. Coworking spaces can organize full or half-day camps during summer with activities, crafts, music or sports. Allowing parents to get work done on-site while kids participate nearby solves the annual summer childcare scramble.
The opportunities are rich for creatively addressing childcare needs with these kinds of programs. The advantage for coworking spaces is that it provides a way to stand out from competitors while serving an important need for members.
For prospective coworking owners looking to embrace this trend, here are a few tips to create awareness and build a pipeline of members:
- Survey local parent professionals to gauge demand and see which offerings they would utilize.
- Hire an experienced childcare coordinator to design programs, oversee staffing, ensure licensing and safety.
- Create a separate kids area with toys, games, and activities. Have small tables and chairs for kids programs and camps.
- List all childcare offerings and pricing clearly on your website. Promote them actively on social media and local parent listservs.
- Start with a few core offerings like drop-in care, then expand as demand grows. Offer discounts for monthly care packages.
- Partner with local providers to offer parenting workshops on-site. Collaborate on summer camps.
- Sponsor family-fun events like pizza nights, story times, or family yoga on weekends.
With some creativity and strategic planning, any coworking space can begin offering childcare programs tailored to their members' needs. Given the major shortage of affordable, flexible options for working parents, this presents a huge business opportunity. Coworking spaces that can solve this pain point provide meaningful value to parent professionals in their community. As more parents turn to these spaces to earn income while raising families, the future of coworking looks bright.