We cannot reimagine the office without rethinking caregiver support.

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

There have been undeniable shifts across the world of work. 

From previously-unimaginable migrations of skilled workers to suburbs and smaller cities and towns, to entire paradigm shifts in how workspace strategies are being designed and implemented.

In response, we’re seeing expansions of some of multinational workspace chains into the suburbs; entirely new ways to assign, track and approve access to workspaces; and the discovery and celebration of beautiful and inspiring independently-owned coworking spaces by folks who until recently had no choice about where they worked from.

However, if we truly want to enable the return of all workers to any workplace, the way we think about supporting caregivers needs to change just as drastically too.

I’m in full agreement with Bill and Melinda Gates recent call for childcare to be treated as critical infrastructure, not only for economic recovery, but also for the long-term sustainability of communities and local economies.

But, until such measures and shifts can occur, what can workspaces, communities builders and neighborhoods do to support caregivers who want to return to a workspace?

Reading posts like this, and discussing possible solutions is a good start. Reaching out to folks who’ve attempted a variety of other ideas is another.

The way I see it though, is that workspace operators of any size can begin taking action to support those who need to provide care to children (and pets*) so that they can return to ‘the office’ or a local workspace during the day.

Based on the building, and size of the workspace organization, the budget available, and other constraints, theres a few different options are available. 

Here’s some actionable ideas, ordered by their increasing amount of effort, expense or setup requirements.

1. Make your workspace accessible and caregiver-friendly.

An easy way to welcome parents on site with their kids in a temporary manner, is to have a box of toys (or even just paper and crayons) or small books, in a meeting room for the parents to still be able to take their meeting, or work a bit, even with their kids along. Even better if the room is accessible by stroller for sleeping babies. I feels it’s such a simple act but it has such an impact on feeling welcomed in a space. I for sure know that I would come back to such space without my kids too.

Diane Chevalard from Working Ensemble

Also, if you’re going to be providing some kind of space for children – bringing in your own kids or encouraging team-members or members to bring in theirs helps to remove the stress and any stigmas about members bringing in their own kids.

2. Seeking out and partnering with local qualified providers.

Whether it’s local nurseries, kindergartens, care providers or day-cares. Leaning on their experience could support caregivers and other local businesses who may have been hit hard during lockdowns.

3. Arranging a share of resources or responsibilities internally.

For example caregiving members could ‘take turns’ watching kids or running homework sessions and school pickups, to give each other time to work, regroup, etc. 

4. Bringing childcare support into the workspace a few days a week or month.

Whether its through a partnership like above, or through an element of group-buying, it may make sense to bring in a carer and turning a meeting room into a kids zone for a couple of hours here and there to support care givers, whilst also making sure there’s a trained professional in the room to alleviate additional stress. 

5. Adding full time childcare assistance as part of all memberships or for an additional fee.

There’s definitely a business model to be made here if you’ve got the space and budget to create a long-term amenity. With hundreds of thousands of caregivers being forced out of the job market, a full time childcare (or petcare) amenity might help employers based in your workspace attract and retain talent.

Bonus: Bring in experienced operators who’ve tackled these challenges before.

Developing a large workspace or neighborhood project and not sure how to tackle these (and other flex workspace) challenges? There’s a growing number of experienced, and industry-leading, coworking leaders who may be interested in partnering up through management-agreements, waived-rent deals or other creative routes. 

Looking for folks like this? Let me know.

 

Whilst these are just a few ideas, they’ve been discussed heavily in ThisWeekInCoworking newsletters and discussions as well as separately with a whole bunch of amazing humans who have had to personally explore childcare + workspace solutions.

Have you tried supporting caregivers? How’d it work? Anything you learned that you’d share with others?

Let me know in a comment below, on LinkedInvia email or via Twitter.

Cover Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

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Hey, I'm Hector 👋

I’m a workspace technologist – which just means I get to work with a tonne of awesome people and tech that support, run, market and enrich hundreds of business communities and workspaces around the world. 

I currently lead included.co and syncaroo.com, and curate This Week In Coworking, the ProptechUpdate, the Integrations Map and the Big Bodacious List of coworking software. Learn more about me and my work here.

In my blog and email updates I share my thoughts, observations and spotted trends regarding workspace, technology & entrepreneurship. 

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