7 Sep 2017

Coworking space for parents pops up in Dunedin

From Nine To Noon, 11:25 am on 7 September 2017

Dunedin blogger Bronwyn Bay is trialling child-friendly pop-up working spaces for parents in her town.

The existing shared workspaces in Dunedin are awesome, but not set up for kids, says Bay – a mother of two who runs her own business.

“We thought maybe it would be best to create something that catered to us, kind of like your mums and bubs movie sessions.”

Getting work done at home can be hard for parents, even when their children aren't aren't around, Bay says.

“You’re already surrounded by all the distractions of chores and other things you could be doing at home. Add in children at your feet… They have this in-built radar. As soon as the computer comes out they can see Mum or Dad are focusing on something and they want to climb in your lap and they want your attention.

People can often focus better at a shared space, she says.

“You’re not going to get the vacuum out or start washing the windows, you don’t have to, you can just get down to business and take advantage of meeting other people.”

The two pop-ups that have taken place so far had two rooms – one with workstations on trestle tables and some laptops for loan, and the other toys and feeding and sleeping areas for the children and childcare workers.

“If the child wakes and needs to be breastfed the carer can just come and knock on the door and let Mum know they need a feed. Or if there’s any trouble and Mum or Dad needs to settle them, they’re right next door.”

Bay welcomes parents who come into work amongst like-minded people even when they're not off-duty.

“They want to be around their peers, they want to come in and not have anyone question them about why there’s peanut butter on their pants or banana in their hair… We sort of give each other the nod about the sort of day we’re having.”

The pop-ups spaces opened from 10:30 to 3:30, with parents paying $5 for up to three hours childcare and a $10 flat fee for the workspace.

At the moment they're working on a 1:4 ratio of childcare workers to children.

“It’s not a kindy, there’s not lots of activities to sustain the child. After about three hours they’re generally ready to go home for a sleep or do something else.”

Bay hopes to get a semi-permanent space running weekly that will eventually become a self-sustaining social enterprise.

“If one day it turned out that it could move into its own location that would be wonderful. But I think at the moment why reinvent the wheel? Why not work with existing community spaces and see what we can create?”

After her first post on the ‘Mums of Dunedin’ Facebook page, Bay was flooded with emails from people around the country asking how they could get a similar space going in their town, she says.

“I’m still trying to work out how to make it happen in Dunedin, so I can't give you all the answers, but there’s a definite demand and need for this sort of concept.”