You won’t believe what people are doing to make working from home with kids work. Here’s a look at ten sometimes convenient, often free, mostly unconventional, and all real hacks currently used by real work-from-home parents in Chicago and New York City:
1. Swedish Meatball Mamas: Some parents are dropping their kids off at Ikea’s Smaland to get free 1-hour childcare (for kids 4-10 year olds) while they crank out a power hour of work in the café.
2. “It’s Fun To Work At The YMCA!”: Nobody knows this better than parents taking advantage of Child Watch – the free 2-hour childcare program (for kids 6 mo – 7 years) offered by the YMCA – so they can get their work out (see what we did there?)
3. Circuit Potty Training: Why sweat it when you can head to the gym café and get that brief finished while someone watches your child for free (or for a very small fee) for up to 2 hours. With childcare for all ages often available at the gym, this is exactly what some parents are doing. CHI – NYC
4. Best In (Library) Class: What’s the best thing about free, 1-hour classes for children (3-9 years) at the library? The kids have fun and don’t notice you are there anyway, so many parents grab a table within site of the class and use the time to catch up on emails. CHI – NYC
5. “Mommy Poppins”: Lots of parents use play spaces to pop in and let their kids run free (especially at locations where supervised care is provided) while they sit and work. The prices and times of these spaces vary and they come for kids (and parents) of all ages. CHI – NYC
6. Drop-It-Off Like It’s Hot: As Snoop and Pharrell say, “when the pimp’s in the crib, ma, drop it like it’s hot,” …oh wait, maybe they’re talking about something else. Either way, when parents need help on demand, especially when a professional fire arises, drop-off childcare seems to be the answer. Prices and times vary and it comes for kids of all ages, but unlike play spaces, parents are free to leave the premises to work at a coffee shop or other fly crib of their own. CHI – NYC
7. Baby Swap: Reality TV has nothing on these babysitter-duty trading parents who are building communities (via online platforms like Babysitterexchange.com) with other work-from-home parents to watch each other’s children. It’s free, but like all good co-ops, it’s got its own system. This one is token-based meaning you earn tokens when you sit for other parents or spend tokens when other members sit for you.
8. Just Like Heaven: Or as some call it, coworking spaces with in-house childcare. The parents lucky enough to have discovered coworking spaces that have actual daycare attached (e.g. NextKids or Collide) feel like the chosen ones.
9. Peer-to-Peer Spoken Here: Thanks to peer-to-peer sharing platforms like Weleet, where people connect based on compatibility, then trade and share personal space for coworking in exchange for skills or services (like babysitting), parents are now able to join forces and have the flexibility to share resources and cowork whenever and wherever they want.
10. Sharing Is Child Caring: Work-from-home parents are beginning to see the value in trading and sharing more than just space and babysitter tokens. Many are getting creative when it comes to splitting resources (e.g. a group of parents can connect on Weleet and share the cost of a single nanny to watch a group of children while they cowork from each other’s homes.) Nanny sharing isn’t a new concept, but the tools and technology platforms available today reduce the friction, build trust through transactions, and allow parents to work-for-themselves and work problems out for themselves like never before.
How’s that for work life balance?
Take note: The number of people projected to “work-from-home” by the year 2020 is staggering: according to some reports, independent workers will rise to over 50 percent of the U.S. workforce in the next six years. This includes many mothers and fathers who are already or soon will be work-at-home parents (whether by choice or by force of economic trends). While a recent Pew study shows that stay-at-home moms rose to 29 percent in 2012, up from 23 percent in 1999, few studies have yet to break down how many of these are mothers (and most likely a growing number of fathers) who are embracing the idea of independent or freelance work. Yet it should come as no surprise since many working parents are increasingly frustrated with their current work life balance: over 50 percent of working parents (both mothers and fathers) with kids say it’s difficult to balance their professional demands with the demands of family. And, let’s face it, parent or not, with one third of the US population already identifying as independent workers, the economy cropping up around and driven by this new workforce is fascinating to observe – and to participate in. After all, who wants to sit alone at home all day or in a cubicle 9 – 5? That’s so 2013.
What are some work-from-home hacks you’ve used?
About the Authors: Nikki Ricks has a background in urban planning and architecture. After having her first baby and deciding to make a different work/life balance work for her, she started to freelance and work from home (one of the many reasons: pumping in the storage room sounded awful). Realizing that conference calls and tight deadlines weren’t her baby girl’s idea of fun, she tried to figure out a better way to work and Collide, coworking with childcare, was born.
Jennifer Gore spent over a decade on Madison Avenue as a Creative Director for Young & Rubicam and Publicis New York leading accounts such as Campbell’s V8 and Procter & Gamble. An expert on social media and the sharing economy, Gore noticed the tectonic shifts in work patterns and quit her job in 2013 to launch Weleet.co, a social network for independent workers to connect, cowork, and trade and share space.