Recently, Toronto saw the opening of a new parent-friendly co-working space in the form of The Workaround.
Founder and CEO Amanda Munday is a long-standing advocate for parents working in tech and has been lobbying for affordable childcare with the Canadian government for several years. Earlier this year, Munday co-authored The Parenting Playbook, a guide for tech leaders that want to build parent-friendly workplaces. It offers insights into the experiences of parents returning to work and sheds light on how organizations are going above and beyond to help with the transition.
Why this, why now?
Working parents are increasingly prevalent in the workforce, so the need for a parent-friendly workplace culture is growing. Parenthood can be a challenging journey and not everyone experiences it in the same way. It is also important to recognize the fact that families come in all forms. There may be single moms, single dads, non-binary parents, and LGBTQ+ parents on a team.
As a parent myself, I can attest to the fact that childcare in this city is inaccessible and unaffordable. As Munday puts it: “In this province and in this country, we do not support parents.”
With costs so high, only high-income families with full-time jobs can access care at all.
There have also been numerous studies and reports looking at the relationship between the gender wage gap and childcare. A Global News report analyzed the link between women at work and the cost of childcare based on Statistics Canada data.
“What produces economic growth is to get more incomes into the hands of more people and that includes women,” Parkland Institute’s Kathleen Lahey told Global News. “Because they are there, super-well educated, willing and ready to work if they can just get out of the house when they have children.”
The current childcare model for licensed quality care creates inequity. With costs so high, only high-income families with full-time jobs can access care at all, if they make it through the waitlist. What this means is that essential early childhood education and school readiness is only readily available to the highest of privileged families.
“I started this space because I was writing a book and I couldn’t work from home and coffee shops,” said Munday. “I identified the need very quickly, as I was not able to bring my kids with me everywhere. There are not enough co-working space options for families and there are definitely not enough options when you are an entrepreneur.”
About The Workaround
The Workaround’s purpose is to provide a space for parents balancing the needs of parenthood and a career. Whether a parent is returning to work after leave, stranded during a snow day, or starting a new business, The WorkAround wants to be the place to go. It includes a nursing suite, stroller parking, coffee and tea options, and a podcast studio.
While full-time high-quality child care is still an essential need, The Workaround aims to offer occasional child care for working parents who can work alongside their children in the same location. The organization describes it as an ideal solution for a PA day, March break, and the odd day a child care provider is unavailable. It is a “workaround” that improves the typical kids-climbing-on-you-at-home struggle. On-site early childhood educators are available to take care of children.
It also makes sense for parents on maternity or paternity leave, who want to return to work gradually but who haven’t yet accessed full-time care.
Three things you can do as an employer to help, from The Parenting Playbook
Provide subsidized child care
Childcare is incredibly expensive in this city, so providing subsidized childcare is the single greatest thing you can do to support parents working in tech. If your employees are returning from mat leave or pat leave, consider getting them a membership to The Workaround.
Consider the container in which you are welcoming parents
Is your nursing suite a cupboard with an uncomfortable chair? Are all your events drinking events or late at night? The micro-decisions we make can make parents feel marginalized.
Recognize that families come in all forms and do not assume anyone’s care role
You can build a supportive workplace culture for parents, and you don’t need a large budget to do so. Investing in parents will not only help you create a stronger employer brand, but will also attract and retain diverse talent.
Disclosure: The author was a contributor on The Parenting Playbook.
Feature photo via Burst.