Recap of February 10’s ReVillaging panel event

ReVillaging: An Invitation to Restructure What Work and Life Looks Like

Roughly 70 people gathered online to discuss the concept of “ReVillaging” with us: emerging new visions for work and family. Besides hearing from speakers Minister Katrina Chen, Amanda Munday, and Madeleine Shaw, attendees broke up into groups to discuss their work-life challenges.

People were particularly touched by Minister Chen’s account of being raised by her grandmother, aunties, and uncles in Taiwan as an example of what a multi-generational approach to ReVillaging could look like. As a single working parent, she said that she could well appreciate the value of spaces that allowed parents to work, connect with each other, and care for their children.

She also touched on initiatives the BC government is working on, from the $10 a day universal childcare program to exploring how we can more creatively use spaces like school grounds, public places, and employer work sites as solutions to much-needed after school care and/or early learning. She further recognized that 97 percent of early childhood educators (ECEs) are women, many of whom are racialized and/or newcomers to Canada, and that their labour is often undervalued and their voices under-represented in the childcare discussion. Panelists discussed the various provincial regulations around childcare, which, while inarguably well-intentioned, can limit flexibility for childcare operators.

Amanda, herself the Founder of a family-friendly co-working space in Toronto, shared that ReVillaging to her meant an invitation and an opportunity to restructure what work and life look like and to say, “We can do this so much better.” She shared about how she created The Workaround—a 13,000 square foot workspace—in 2018 as a response to the challenge she faced as a then-new parent trying to manage a demanding career in an inflexible technology environment with limited access to childcare.

Madeleine explained how the ReVillaging concept was born out of the experience that she and her business partner (Shaw and Suzanne Siemens are co-founders of Aisle—formerly Lunapads—an e-retailer of natural menstrual products) had of bringing their children to work with them in the early 2000s. Madeleine shared her feeling that work and family life have only been separate in people’s minds since the advent of the industrial era and stressed the value of closer community relationships that ReVillaging provides.

Amanda pointed out that even with a “universal” childcare system, there will still be some families whose needs will not be met. She argued that childcare should be considered as a standard workplace amenity, similar to lunch rooms, scaled according to the size of the business and also suggested that ECEs could also become empowered to start their own businesses, generating sustainable prosperity and independence for themselves.

Moderator Vanessa Richards pointed out the importance of welcoming everyone and their skills into revillaged communities, including elders.

You can watch the recap of the panel discussion here:

What attendees said about their work and family situations

Following presentations, attendees broke up into groups to discuss their work/life challenges and how they had been affected—or exacerbated—during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how services like Nestworks could support them.

Challenges with the current system

  • The current childcare system revolves around a 9-5 workday, which doesn’t work for everyone. Some parents need evening childcare.
  • Some parents only need care for a few hours a day or for a few days a week (instead of five) and they can’t find help, or they are hustling to pay for more days of childcare per week.
  • One mother left Vancouver so that she could have support from her parents, who live on Vancouver Island.
  • There seems to be a lack of coordination between city planners, the provincial government, and Vancouver Coastal Health regarding regulations around office space, including newly shared office space.

COVID-related challenges

  • COVID has highlighted the fact that all of us, including caregivers, need care and community year-round. Caregivers are used to working with and being around people, and some of them choose to stay home instead of work in the community.
  • Having children in school for only 2 hours a day doesn’t give parents much flexibility.
  • Working at home is mostly an emotional load for parents, usually mothers.
  • Parents must share workspaces with spouses and/or children. Some don’t even have a home office space.
  • The loss of a local manufacturer impacted one entrepreneur with a business in the trades industry. Her costs have gone up, her business is hurting, and she heard from female customers that layoffs occurred and shifts were added, making childcare more difficult.
  • The childcare providers at Pacific Immigrant Resource Society (PIRS) are challenged both ways: If they work from home, they don’t have privacy. If they go out to work in the community, they fear spreading COVID to their families.

Proposed solutions

  • There are many things already working in communities that we could explore more: Cohousing, multigenerational households, and workplace policies.
  • Think of childcare facilities as benefiting an entire community, because it’s not just parents who benefit.
  • An attendee from Metro Vancouver talked about the affordable housing units they’re building and focusing on developing integrated childcare in the new units. She was intrigued about the idea of adding coworking to innovate, according to what parents might need.
  • A set of mothers created OneSpace as a solution to their own challenges managing work during maternity leave during COVID. They had no support, so they built a space themselves, with accounting and law help from Weir and Associates and BTM Lawyers. (Their families also bubbled together during COVID.) Their space offers coworking with flexible, affordable childcare and a massage therapist. They’re also looking to add a counsellor to help members with their mental health.
  • Being able to have a supportive, family-like community in a workspace is very important. One parent bought property with another family to share land and childcare as a co-working space. 
  • Could we train and hire teenagers for roles in the childcare industry? St. John’s Ambulance offers training to enthusiastic pre-teen and teenage girls AND boys (and the courses are filled to capacity). It’s like a rite of passage for them; perhaps there could be a next-level role for them in the childcare system, or we could pay them to do things like make food, clean up, and play games with children. This would address the loneliness/isolation they feel, and teach them to lead and be responsible with love (screen-free!).
  • In the same way coworking with other adults leads to osmosis and inspiration, could we look at working with our teenage children at home as a way for them to learn from us, even if they’re on their devices?
  • A volunteer with Girl Guides of Canada said that two-hour online meetings for girls has helped parents manage their time.
  • Nestworks could be a place where parents could get help, both practically and emotionally.
  • Perhaps larger spaces like WeWork or Regus could partner with Nestworks.
  • A bus that could pick up kids and bring them to a coworking space (like what Nestworks is proposing) would be ideal.
  • We need more female developers!
  • Instead of building large offices, this is an opportunity for big corporations to provide these important options for their employees in smaller, satellite offices.
  • We should look into the City of Vancouver’s Joint Care Council that is collaborating on regulatory issues in BC; developers should be a part of this conversation too. They’ve thought through many of these issues over the years and have seen the negative outcomes when regulatory corners have been cut.
  • If Vancouver isn’t where the greatest need is, perhaps Nestworks could start in other geographies!

We thank everyone for attending and contributing to a new vision for ReVillaging!

Our next event will take place on Wednesday, April 7 at 5pm PT so stay tuned on social media and in our newsletter for the details.