Google employees in the US get company-funded creches. In Europe, tech giants like Cisco support families with on-site childcare too.
But founders, freelancers and startups at Europe’s coworking spaces have no such luck. Dogs are welcome at nearly half of Europe’s coworking spaces, yet most coworking spaces are “unfit” for working parents with kids.
I’ve been silently frowned upon by other guests when I showed up with my son.
“I’ve been silently frowned upon by other guests when I showed up with my son,” Nadia Aimé, founder of She Leads Digital, said in our feature on how to balance babies with business.
Many coworking spaces lack basic facilities like changing stations. Kids are ‘welcome’ at just a quarter of locations and only 2% offer childcare. But times are changing.
In recent years many coworking spaces have put nurseries and childcare facilities at the heart of their business; Cowoki in Cologne, Germany; Incubyte in Cambridge, UK; and CoFamily Coworking in Granada, Spain, to name just a few.
Italy has among the highest numbers of coworking space with childcare (it’s home to beautiful spaces like Qf and CoBaby in Milan, Spazio Co-stanza in Florence and L’alveare in Rome).
However, it isn’t easy to pioneer these new family-focused hubs.
“Both coworking and childcare are models where revenues are not secure, they fluctuate during holiday times and as children grow, the turnover can be quite high,” notes Jelissa Risse who opened The Village Coworking in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2017.
Because of these tight margins a number of relatively young spaces — CoworkCrèche in Paris, Officreche in Brighton (UK) and EasyBusy in Berlin — have prematurely shuttered.
Still, European entrepreneurs are pushing ahead (see our full list of European coworking spaces with childcare at the close of this article).
Can kid-friendly coworking work?
Partnering with established childcare providers is helping some coworking spaces to reduce risk.
In Switzerland, Risee has just moved The Village to St Sulpice, marking its new partnership with professional childcare programme l’écoline.
The new alliance means that The Village can cater to a wider age group of children, and can even offer a summer program for non members during school holidays (it already has weekly kids activities like yoga, English club and capoeira).
Such resources are vital for local parents, one mum-in-residence, tells Sifted. “Switzerland is highly conservative and expects mothers to stay home. There is woefully little public investment in child care facilities and private creches are exorbitant for average families,” she says.
Maybe in ten years time every crappy office building will have a childcare facility.
Additionally, she says she’s happy to pay CHF 100 for coworking and childcare one-day-a-week when covering desk space and a creche separately would otherwise set her back CHF 200.
Second Home in London is another coworking business that has linked up with a professional childcare provider. It opened its first location with childcare this year in London Fields.
"You need a great partner to run a nursery, which is why we went in with N Family Club,” Rohan Silva tells Sifted.
"First coworking spaces put coffee shops in and now every boring office development has one. Maybe in ten years time every crappy office building will have a childcare facility."
Governments can also respond to, and drive, social change.
In Berlin, Katja Thiede launched JuggleHUB with flexible and subscription childcare packages (membership starts at €79, with childcare costing €8.40 per hour).
At first — because public “Kita” childcare is free in Germany — she said parents found it financially “painful” to pay for childcare.
Last year, however, the German Youth Welfare Office changed its laws so that parents are refunded if they aren’t offered a government-backed daycare spot. “This made our service much more attractive for many people,” says Thiede.
One working dad told Sifted that JuggleHub addresses “the fundamental problem” in Berlin — the fact that public childcare is oversubscribed with long wait lists. “I can work without any bad feelings of leaving him,” he says of his one-year-old son.
To ignore the fact that a huge proportion of freelance or flexible workers are parents is to alienate your own target market.
Charlie Rosier, launched Cuckooz Nest in London in 2018 and also hopes that increased conversation around flexible work will keep it afloat. The coworking space, which comes with an Ofsted registered nursery charges £12-20 per hour (depending on usage) is opening a second site later this year.
“The spaces that have previously shut are not so much a reflection of the model, but more about timing,” Rosier tells Sifted. “The number of working mums is increasing at an incredible pace and there is a lack of good quality childcare options across the UK that truly provide the flexibility required.”
Member Emily Lanfear agrees. She turned to Cuckooz Nest after an unsuccessful search for a drop-in creche without a 6-month waiting list.
“Co-working spaces are nothing new. However, to ignore the fact that a huge proportion of freelance or flexible workers are parents, precisely because they have a family is to alienate your own target market,” she says.
“This is not a women’s or a feminist issue. Those who don’t offer this, will get left behind.”
European coworking spaces with childcare (by country)
This is a living resource. Please email Kitty Knowles to update this list with a coworking space with childcare in your country.
Cowork & Play, Frankfurt
CoBaby at PianoC, Milan
Spazio Co-stanza, Florence
FeelGood Coworking, Bari
Gnome House, St Petersburg
Coworking Cvernovka, Bratislava
Unicare Coworking, Slovakia
CoFamily Coworking, Grenada
The Village, Saint-Sulpice
United Kingdom (UK)
Third Door, London
Second Home, London
Cuckooz Nest, London
Farm Work Play, Canterbury