Coworking continues to evolve and mold to the increasingly blurred boundaries between domestic and professional life. An area often overlooked is that of childcare for remote workers and home workers.
I have colleagues and collaborators who, despite the fact they’re self-employed and work largely from a home office, still need to employ childcare. Some may see this as an unnecessary overhead, but it’s actually desperately needed in order to provide focus whilst working from home.
Enter Cubes & Crayons in Menlo Park, CA, self-described as ‘full-time childcare and office space'; think of it as coworking + creche! Cube & Crayons was profiled recently (along with New York’s TwoRooms) in a Springwise article exploring emerging trends in ‘More Work Spaces for Parents‘.
At Cubes & Crayons, the usual connectivity, office equipment, conference rooms and work spaces exist alongside facilities for kids ranging from just a few months old to pre-schoolers. Like most coworking plans, there’s a lot of flexibility in choosing drop-in, pay-as-you-go and pay-monthly options, with discounts to regular members.
Interestingly, Cubes & Crayons not only encourages members to contribute, but writes it into their agreements; for every 20 hours or use, parents/members are expected to contribute 4 hours of voluntary time, perhaps to help care for the children in the facilities. Rather than being an onerous requirement, I believe this kind of quid-pro-quo can help to bring cohesion to a community and actually deepen ties between people sharing the space. If I have to trust you with my child, I’ll make damn sure I get to know you well!
The addition of childcare facilities to coworking spaces is as inevitable a development of coworking as coworking was to freelancers and web workers. Coworking is a lifestyle choice – we choose to exercise control and freedom over our working patterns and our children are as fundamental a part of these lifestyle choices as any other working environment.
In a previous post on the future of coworking, we speculated on how human resources and enterprise structures would accomodate coworkers into their cultures. However, issues such as childcare speak to wider issues on how we approach cultural, corporate and urban design.
If coworking breaks into the mainstream can we imagine…
- cities becoming more diffuse, as office campuses and downtown areas give way to hundreds of coworking hubs – perhaps jointly funded by large corporates.
- homes becoming larger as families accomodate more than one home-worker, perhaps even hosting friends and colleagues in coworking areas of their homes?
- a decline in commuter traffic as people work closer to their homes, or indeed from them.
Of course, such notions have long been explored as telecommuting found its way from labs to reality, but perhaps coworking represents an opening to reimagine how we live and work more broadly; regardless, I believe childcare will be as integral a part of coworking as connectivity.