- In the coworking + childcare model, childcare is offered in coworking spaces as either part-time childminding and/or full-time daycare
- Offering childcare can be a great way to differentiate yourself and support the parents in your community
- It may also require special licensing and dedicated childcare space which can be expensive. Therefore, it’s important to do your research before deciding to move forward with this kind of model
There is a strong need for affordable childcare services in North America.
Coworking spaces are stepping up to fill this need by introducing integrated childcare and work environments.
In this article, we’re breaking down the coworking + childcare model with the help of Optix client, The Commons at Phase.
The Commons at Phase is part of a 62,500 square foot facility offering coworking, events, and childcare on-site. They combine a high-quality learning center with a space for work to create a unique opportunity for people to connect, encourage, and support each other.
Together, we’ll unpack the benefits, challenges, and key considerations operators should consider with the childcare and coworking model.
What is the integrated childcare and coworking business model?
The primary coworking business model is selling space in the form of desks, private offices, or meeting and event rooms. The childcare and coworking business model brings selling space together with on-site childcare by offering parents a place to work while their children are looked after.
The way that coworking spaces integrate with childcare facilities varies widely. In most coworking spaces, it is offered in one of two ways:
- Part-time childminding (after-school care, drop-ins)
- Full-time daycare
Part-time childminding works similarly to the in-gym daycare or Ikea model. Parents typically drop their kids off in a dedicated childcare space for a set amount of time. They get charged by the hour or for that period (ie. $40 for care from 3-5:30). They either need to sign up for a slot beforehand or can drop-in.
Full-time daycare is offered as a full-time service including monthly (or annual) memberships. This is often a fully licensed daycare facility that is integrated with the coworking space so that parents can work in the space while their children are cared for nearby.
Contact between the child and the parent varies in both models. Some spaces have parents on-site and taking care of things like toileting, while others limit all contact.
Just opening a coworking space? This guide to starting a coworking space will take you through 30 questions to ask yourself before opening your doors.
What are the benefits of offering childcare as a coworking space?
Setting up childcare in your coworking space is a wonderful way to add value to the community that you’re serving.
Offering childcare services in your space can:
- Differentiate yourself and help you find your niche/ideal client
- Attract more members of an underserved population to your space (parents!)
- Support the community
- Bring a fun liveliness to the space
- Create an opportunity to make revenue on an additional service offering including renting the space privately for therapists, educators, birthday parties, and more.
Stacie Williams, president and COO of Phase Family Learning Center, says offering childcare and coworking services means they get to really put their money where their mouth is.
"We say we are a family center, a hub for community. Offering services for children and adults, as well as spaces for birthdays, weddings, and business events, makes us a true one stop shop for families in our community."Stacie Williams, president and COO of Phase Family Learning Center
What are the drawbacks of offering childcare in a coworking space?
The benefits to offering childcare are immense. However, it can be logistically challenging to figure out at first, especially for small spaces.
You will need to have the resources to support this model including:
- Dedicated childcare space
- Childminding staff members
- Toys and activities
- Food and drinks
- Cleaning services
Before opening, it’s important to consider the cost of implementing these resources in your space.
Examples of childcare and coworking membership plans
There is a tremendous amount of flexibility available to operators when it comes to creating childcare plans and memberships.
When creating a plan, you’ll need to think about:
- When do you want to offer childcare?
- What age of children will you allow into the space?
- Will you have a minimum and maximum time system in place?
- What amenities will you offer both parent and child?
- How much contact will there be between parent and child?
- How will you price your membership plans?
At Phase Family Learning Center, parents are given the choice between a variety of childcare options including preschool, after-school care, school breaks, and summer camp. They serve children from six weeks to twelve years of age, with pricing varying depending on the service.
Here are examples of a few other plans we’ve seen:
|Half-day coworking and care for infant 6 months to 18 months
|3 hours of childcare Mon + Wed all month, a space to work, open play playground membership
San Diego, CA
|Babyminding (1-3 hr max) for 8-12 months of age
What You Need to Consider If You Want to Open a Childcare and Coworking Space
If you have your heart set on opening a childcare and coworking space, here are some things to keep in mind.
Special licensing may be required
Childcare licensing varies from country to country and state to state.
In the US for example, some states do not require childcare services to be licensed if the care is short term and the parents are on the premises. However, these regulations can vary widely.
Williams agrees that licensing is the biggest challenge.
"Licensed childcare is heavily regulated. We have fobbed entrances and spaces that can only be accessed by families and staff of the learning center, and some shared space where events and the learning center both have access. Just maintaining the necessary boundaries and expectations can get complicated."Stacie Williams, president and COO of Phase Family Learning Center
Do your research and see what kind of licenses you will be required to obtain to offer childcare services. Then factor this into the cost of opening your coworking space.
Drop-in care can prove challenging
It’s appealing to want to offer parents flexibility with childcare. For most spaces however, drop-ins alone are not feasible to make a profit.
Think about the difference between income generated by private offices and hot desks. With a private office, you know you are receiving $x a month for y number of months. You can predict your cash flow and factor that in accordingly.
With hot desks, you never know if or when they are going to be filled and for how long. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to predict cash flow based on hot desk occupancy alone.
The same goes for drop-in childcare. You can’t rely on childcare services as a primary revenue driver if you never know if the services are going to be used. For this reason, most childcare services prefer offering full-time or monthly care packages as opposed to hourly or daily.
Amirh Davis and Christina Gutierrez spoke about the challenges of offering drop-in care on the Everything Coworking podcast. If you’re considering this model, we recommend checking out this episode.
Different ages will require different care
It’s impossible to blanket childcare as one category when each age group requires very different care.
If you’re interested in offering childcare services at your coworking space, think about the age group you want to serve. This will then influence the business model you choose to implement.
Some examples of age-influenced business models include:
- Babyminding on weekday mornings for 2-3 hour periods
- After school care for elementary-aged children weekdays 3-5
- Preschool care on weekdays for 4-6 hour periods
Depending on your location, there may be special requirements around adult to child ratio as well, so consider that when building out your childcare and coworking business structure.
Finding the right staff is key
One of the biggest challenges we find with opening a childcare and coworking space is staffing.
Providing exceptional childcare means employing experienced early childhood educators. If you do choose to offer drop-in care, you will also need to have employees on-site at all possible hours to accommodate the needs.
This can prove to be very expensive.
Consider the availability and cost of employing early childhood educators in your location before choosing this model and take the time to find the right staff for your space.
Offering childcare will influence your ideal client profile – and therefore, your coworking offerings
Many coworking spaces offering childcare do allow non-parents to use the space. However choosing to offer childminding services will strongly influence your ideal client profile.
Therefore, many of the other services you provide will be highly influenced by your offering. This includes things like:
- The events you put on – emphasis on family-friendly or parental education events
- The snacks you offer – kid friendly snacks
- The add-on services you provide – family counselling or coaching for parents in the workforce
- The amenities in your space – consider a TV live stream so parents can easily see their children
- The time your space is open – offering after school or early morning care may mean opening your space at different hours
Keep this in mind when planning your coworking offerings.
Childcare can be a central differentiating factor at your coworking space
It can be a wonderful way to support your community and provide value to your members.
Williams and the team at Phase Family Learning Center have proven the two can cohabitate seamlessly and benefit from each other’s presence. Her advice for new operators? “If you are looking to add a licensed center as we have, know that there are regulations that you must meet,” says Stacie. “Often the safety and security of the center comes before coworking preferences.”
Check out the Phase Family Learning Center website to learn more about their approach to coworking and childcare.
Looking to start your own coworking space? See how Optix can help.