One of the key drivers for the contemporary coworking movement is to combat the isolation faced by independent and freelance workers. Coworking is a “respite from our isolation”, to quote Zachary Klaas .
Long before unmarried professionals discovered the loneliness of working at home, parents, especially mothers, endured the isolation of child rearing. Worse, working parents, especially mothers, have to balance two careers, at home and, well at home. Working at home may have advantages, but it is very difficult to do two jobs at home at the same time.
Neil Carlson co founder the Brooklyn Creative League coworking space of writes about these challenges, and how coworking is not only a respite from isolation, it is a way to create space for (non child rearing) work .
OK, this post is kind of Mansplaining the challenges of working and raising kids. Nothing here is in any way new to the millions of working moms through history. Somehow, when it becomes a problem for men, suddenly we need solutions other than blaming the victim.
It’s a little annoying to read about how great this coworking space is for dads to find a community of dads to help them have fun at and do better at raising their kids. Where are the moms in this picture? They have the same challenges plus clueless knuckle-draggers treating them like domestic servants.
But let’s not harp on that, and let’s ook at how their coworking space helps balance work and family.
First of all, Carlson supports the separation of work and home. (I have hewed a hard line on this topic for many decades.) A coworking space—a kid free, everybody is working here, space—is not only a better place to work, it psychologically separates “I’m at work” from “I’m at home”.
Second, coworking is a place to be part of a community of like-minded workers. In this case, the parents can find other like-minded working parents. Coworking is widely reported to improve productivity and work quality, through interactions and networking. Carlson’s analysis suggests that it may also improve parenting through the same mechanisms. (If you view child rearing as a vital, if unpaid, job, then this certainly makes sense.)
Carlson notes that the flexibility of choosing and finding a coworking space near to home is extremely valuable. A workplace that is separate, yet close enough to not waste time on commutes, or be so far away to be out of reach if needed by the little ones.
These are all fair points, if nothing that working moms haven’t already invented.
I was more interested in what the Brooklyn Creative League has done to meet the needs of these parents. Looking at the website, the facilities and amenities don’t seem to be different from most other coworking spaces. I suspect that the weekly potluck is more kidful than some coworking spaces (Friday keggers or all night video gaming are generally not that interesting to parents of toddlers).
Judging from the blog post, the “secret sauce” of BCL is probably the community leadership, which has built a community of working dads (maybe moms, too). This is certainly what I would expect: coworking is all about community, and community leaders are usually much more important than the workspace or “amenities”.
One thing that is strikingly missing from the BCL is child care. T One thing that working parents need most is accessible child care, and BCL does not seem to have anything to say on that. It also doesn’t look like the space is designed to be kid friendly at all. he website doesn’t even have pictures of kids or kid’s spaces. (This may be an inaccurate impression, but you’d think they would mention it.)
I’ve been arguing for years that coworking spaces should ally with child care facilities. I know that this is hard, very hard. But it’s starting to happen, and it’s really important.
I’m sure I will return to this topic in the near future.
- Neil F. Carlson, Dads Who Cowork, in Brooklyn Creative League – Coworking Blog. 2018. http://brooklyncreativeleague.co/coworking-blog/2018/8/15/8m5rj68pecjhuoz3ugi3t6dlaptjbd
- Zachary R. Klaas, Coworking & Connectivity in Berlin. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2014. https://www.academia.edu/11486279/Coworking_Connectivity