As co-working spaces grow in popularity, some are adapting to meet their patrons’ specialized needs.
By Archana Mehta
The soothing sound of water trickling in a fountain greets you as you walk into Hera Hub, a female-focused co-working space in Washington, D.C. The buzz of conversation fills the air as members finish a lunchtime think tank, where a member presented challenges facing her business to get feedback from other women entrepreneurs.
The idea was to encourage members to support each other and further one another’s businesses.
The traditional concept of a workday is changing — and co-working spaces like Hera Hub are on the rise. Many of us now have more flexibility in where and how we accomplish our work. Gone are the constraints of completing your work within standard business hours or needing to be in the office. In 2015, 24 percent of U.S. workers conducted some or all of their work from home (U.S. Department of Labor, 2016).
Co-working spaces are great solutions for employees who work remotely, but they are also addressing the needs of another population: entrepreneurs. The rise of entrepreneurship is driving the growth of co-working spaces. According to the Harvard Business Review, co-working space membership will grow globally from about 1.6 million members today to 3.8 million in 2020 (King, 2017).
Co-working spaces give entrepreneurs a place to connect with one another. WeWork, one of the most well-known co-working spaces in the U.S., now has more than 200,000 members and a presence in 65 cities around the world. The company offers lunch and learn sessions and networking events for members to share expertise.
While a remote employee may simply want a workspace outside the home, an entrepreneur or small business owner may have concerns about cash flow and resources. Office space can be a huge expense for a business, and there are ancillary expenses like internet and furniture on top of that.
Co-working spaces, however, can be more affordable: Many spaces offer patrons month-to-month memberships, and services like internet, as well as extras like coffee and snacks, are often included. Some also provide business services — WeWork offers bookkeeping at reduced rates, for instance.
Some co-working spaces are addressing the different needs of their patrons through specialized focuses. Female-focused co-working spaces, such as Hera Hub, are spaces for women to connect and empower each other. Others, including Two Birds and The Cube CoWork, are spaces for parents to work while their children are just feet away.
Julia Westfall, CEO of Hera Hub D.C., says her co-working space serves as a support network for women who are starting or pivoting a business and “want that community aspect.”
Founded by Felena Hanson in 2011, and named after Hera, the queen of the Greek gods, Hera Hub focuses on empowering women entrepreneurs. The company emphasizes community building and supporting one another. Its co-working spaces — soon to be seven in the U.S. and one in Sweden —offer courses designed to boost members’ business capabilities. They also host events and competitions to help members further their businesses.
While Hera Hub focuses on women entrepreneurs, other co-working spaces are operating under a relatively new concept: the inclusion of childcare.
Kelsey Lents is Co-founder of Two Birds, a licensed childcare provider and co-working space scheduled to open in Washington, D.C., in spring 2019. Her inspiration for the space came when she was pregnant and learned there were not enough licensed childcare providers in the region to meet demand. “There are really high childcare demands but only enough childcare to accommodate one out of three
children,” Lents says.
Lents and her co-founder realized that childcare can be especially challenging for work-from-home parents. “There’s no formalized community around people who work from home but have children,” she says.
The work and childcare landscapes still adhere to a more traditional philosophy regarding business hours and separating work and childcare spaces, according to Lents, which means work-from-home parents are often pigeonholed into that lifestyle. If they send their kids to a daycare center with traditional operating hours, for example, then they must get their work done in those time frames. Even if work-from-home parents have in-home childcare from a nanny or a babysitter, they often still face challenges balancing work and childcare. One of the issues is that “kids know their parents are home and are constantly trying to get their attention,” Lents says.
In its co-working space, Two Birds plans to provide full- and part-time licensed childcare. The goal is “to give parents and their kids a space in which they can work effectively and build a community around them,” Lents says.
While Lents says they’re hoping to change the way people think about mingling work and childcare spaces, Two Birds will provide a clear enough separation between the two spaces for parents to work without distractions. Children will not be allowed in the workspace while people are working.
Lents and her business partner also want to support the parent communities that will develop in their workspace by holding workshops and bringing in experts such as lactation consultants and sleep training experts to engage with parents. “We are a social impact business,” Lents says.
The Cube in Baltimore is another co-working space that provides childcare. The business model is a bit different: Instead of licensed childcare, The Cube provides babysitting services while parents work in a separate but adjacent space. The difference in licensing means that parents must stay on the premises while their children are cared for.
Tammira Lucas co-founded The Cube with her sister, TeKesha Jamison, in November 2016. Lucas says the idea came to her as a new mother trying to balance her career with being a parent. She says she wanted to create a space where parents could work and have access to childcare that wouldn’t send them to the poorhouse.
The Cube provides parents with an environment that will help them balance their families and their careers by removing the daily distractions and guilt so that they can change their ‘I can’ts’ into ‘I cans.’”
– Tammira Lucas
Editor’s Note: The print version of this article references Hatch coworking space. The owners of Hatch recently changed their name to Two Birds and shifted their opening date from fall 2018 to spring 2019.