Co-working spaces seem to be the way of the future and these two organisations are at the forefront. We take a look into the new employee policy changes at The Wing – an all female co-working space in America – and Australia's oldest co-working space, Vibewire, which is dedicated to developing and sponsoring young Australian's with a social impact mindset.
U.S-based female co-working space, The Wing, recently made headlines for practicing what they preach and offering most of their part-time employees full time jobs, including their cooks, baristas, bartenders and cleaners.
Workers choosing to take this opportunity will receive health benefits, a salary increase, three months of paid maternity leave and stock options. For employees choosing to remain in part-time roles (working for under 30 hours per week), they will still be afforded some full-time perks, including health benefits and an increase in the minimum wage, which now sits at $16.50 USD per hour. The company is also considering offering paid maternity leave to their part-time staffers.
“We do have some employees that like part time because of the flexibility it affords them,” says co-founder Audrey Gelman for Fast Company. “But we believe that working part time doesn’t mean you should have to sacrifice access to things like healthcare or even an ownership stake in the company.
“As a growing employer with a majority female workforce, The Wing’s goal is to provide sustainable, safe, good-paying jobs with benefits to our community of dedicated employees. And as a mission-driven company, it’s only right that our internal policies are reflective of that and the kind of world we [want] to live in,” she says.
Gelman founded The Wing in 2016, alongside Lauren Kassan, with the intention of providing a space for female-identifying folk to collaborate, work, socialise and learn. With roughly 300 employees – and over 5,000 members – the company’s policy change has come at a good time, with plans to expand internationally with offices in Paris and London in the works.
Image: Gelman and Kassan.
As one journalist pointed out, it could be easy to get caught up in the seemingly flawless set-up and believe that these women have created a feminism oasis – they even have dedicated lactation rooms – but “The Wing has its detractors, who argue a social club with a waiting list and $215 monthly rate is inherently exclusive. (The Wing’s own hourly employees surely couldn’t afford the price of entry.)”
Others have criticised the organisations “female-only” policy, which states that men cannot become members or even visit as guests. This has prompted an investigation by the New York City Commission on Human Rights, which is ongoing.
These are all worthy arguments (although I'd argue that an all female club is much different to an all male club) but from the employee perspective, they seem to be ticking all of the right boxes.
An Aussie co-working space supporting young entrepreneurs
Vibewire – Australia's oldest co-working space – enables young people to build sustainable businesses with a focus on social impact. They also run Hackathons around themes that disproportionately affect young people.
"We want to change people’s mindsets and help them to think innovatively about our everyday work."
"Our Hackathons have covered things like financial literacy, homelessness, mental health and domestic violence. Our next one will be ‘health hacks’ - which looks at all things health; chronic health, acute health, research etc. [We want to help ] young people to use business as a vehicle to sustain vulnerable people in society. We encourage them to fail fast, in a safe way, so they can then try something new," says Laura Rojas, Vibewire's Executive Director.
"We also engage with corporates and run internal programs helping them to engage with young people more efficiently and show them how they can teach staff about design thinking. We want to change people’s mindsets and help them to think innovatively about everyday work.”
Rojas ays that if she had the financial means, she’d love to mimic The Wing’s policy with her own staff.
“If you have the cash flow and facilities to be able to sustain a policy like that, then I think that’s great.
Image: Vibewire office, Ultimo, Sydney.
“As a not-for-profit organisation, we’re not in the same financial position as The Wing so we incentivise our staff in other ways, like offering them expertise in specific areas, mentoring opportunities and providing a networking circle in terms of investors or subject matter experts. There’s a wealth of resources behind them,” Rojas says.
“In start-up environments there are a lot of intelligent people doing incredible things, so it’s very important to show that you value them.”
She said it’s also important for a company to consider its return on investment when implementing a generous employee policy like this.
Image: Vibewire office
“If you have a receptionist that works part-time and you’re giving them some full-time benefits, you’d have to consider if that was going to increase their productivity. You also have to make sure you’re setting realistic precedence moving forward.
"As a shareholder, you have to ask “am I getting bang for my buck?” and from an employee perspective you should think about if you’re getting overly incentivised to stay in an organisation? In the event that you have to move on, are your expectations of employment going to drastically change if these perks aren’t offered elsewhere?”
Click here to visit the Vibewire website.
Images: @the.wing, @audreygelman and @vibewire.
Kate Neilson is the founding editor at Twenty Something Humans. She feels weird writing about herself in third person. Lurk her @katiepotatierose.