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News & opinion

2 APR 2019

Childcare solutions for the workplace

Are offices and coworking spaces with on-site nurseries a logical conflation of workplace and childcare, or too much play and not enough work?

One of the big real estate trends this outgoing decade will become known for is the rise of the coworker. Cushman & Wakefield’s Coworking 2018 report found that the stock of space in London grew 270% between 2007 and 2017, and Dublin, Stockholm and Berlin are all cities to watch in terms of growth.

With the way we work becoming more agile, it’s no surprise that freelancers, small businesses and, increasingly, larger organisations should be flocking to flexible workspaces that provide members with a place to work, and clients.

It is now also the norm for mothers to be in employment, and entrepreneurs have seen a gap in the market for parents who need flexible workspace and childcare combined. Such arrangements do not always save costs, but they do help with juggling pick-ups, drop-offs, and other commitments.

Affordable and flexible solutions

Examples abound – from MOMentum Coworking in Pennsylvania to juggleHUB in Berlin. London’s Cuckooz Nest was founded by friends Charlie Rosier and Fabienne O’Neill. Frustrated at the lack of affordable, flexible options when Rosier returned to work as her own boss, she dug deeper and learned that one in every seven freelancers is a working mum.

Teddy bear
As well as logistical benefits, combining coworking with childcare has emotional benefits

With backgrounds in real estate investment and events management respectively, the duo saw a business opportunity. They converted a former lighting showroom into a workspace and Ofsted-registered creche, and partnered with childcare agency Manny & Me in order to provide registered childminders.

They gained both D1 and B1 usage after a lengthy planning process, and now offer separate entrances for the building’s two user groups (the ground floor is given over to children, while adults work in the basement). The service operates on a pay-as-you-go basis, with members buying a bundle of hours and using them when they want to, with as little as 24-hours’ notice.

Emotional benefits

As well as the logistical benefits of having somewhere free from distractions to work away from home, combining coworking with childcare also has emotional benefits. A BBC survey found that nearly half of women felt lonely during their maternity leave, while a study by the British Council for Offices showed that 70% of coworking members feel strongly that they are part of a community.

A study by the British Council for Offices showed that 70% of coworking members feel strongly that they are part of a community.

In the case of Cuckooz Nest members, Rosier and O’Neill say that they have seen the difference that on-site childcare can have, especially when new mums and dads return to work. Users can bond as professionals as well as parents, collaborating on both fronts.

After their fledgling success, Rosier and O’Neill are looking to spread Cuckooz Nest’s wings, and last month launched a crowdfunding campaign to aid their expansion. They argue that things must go further than Goldman Sachs operating an on-site creche in London – as it has since 2003 – or WeWork running a single Montessori school in New York.

Instead, they want on-site nurseries and subsidised childcare costs for employees to become the norm. Pledges of more than £2,000 to the crowdfunding campaign will be rewarded with free childcare in the new workspace facilities.

To this end, Cuckooz Nest is now in talks with landlords to operate the brand in commercial developments. Rosier and O’Neill say that this will make corporate tenants more likely to take on a particular office let. If they are proved right, then expect to see the concept grow and grow.

Star Wars toys
Entrepreneurs have seen a gap in the market for parents who need flexible workspace and childcare combined

Coworking with kids around the world

Third Door, UK

The former Nokia executive Shazia Mustafa and her husband, Yusuf founded this south London coworking space and nursery, designing their own software to ensure that all drop-offs are secure.

The Wing, US

Currently in five US locations, The Wing offers workspaces designed especially for women. It is set to trial a “Little Wing” this winter, where members can leave their children in the care of certified babysitters.

QF, Italy

The QF coworking space in Milan has a 9.00am-5.30pm “Qbaby” childcare programme and a 5.30pm-8:30pm “Qlab” programme for older children, with art, music and language lessons.

  • Helen Parton is a former editor of office design magazine OnOffice.

This article originally appeared in the Good Issue of Modus (April 2019), titled If the Kids are Invited.