Better together: Just because your job is remote doesn’t mean you have to be lonely

Meg Cooper and I stand in the entryway of her parent-friendly co-working space, Gather Cincy, on a rare sunny Thursday in February. We’re meeting as professionals — one work-remotely mom to anther — which lends itself to immediate camaraderie.

“There’s the stay-at-home moms and there’s the full-time working moms, and you don’t fit into either one of those [groups], and so it’s nice to have that community of people who are dealing with the same things,” says Cooper. “A lot of people become really good friends and do play dates and stuff because we have those flexible schedules.”

Cooper, who has worked remotely as a consultant for her entire career, noticed that there was a lack of flexible childcare options in the city. She thought about opening a kid-friendly co-working space for awhile, and began hosting pop-ups throughout the city in August 2017. Gather moved into its permanent home on Ashland Avenue in East Walnut Hills a little under a year ago.

Her space holds more than just a reprieve for work-from-home parents. It has a multitude of amenities, from comfortable light-filled work stations complete with tables, couches, chairs, and pillows, to a full kitchen and private offices upstairs.

The basement has child care, nap rooms, and spaces for nursing moms.
But the main draw — and what sets it apart from other co-working spots in the city — is the childcare in the basement, which
is run Montessori-style by Cooper’s mom, co-founder Peggy Bustamante, and included in membership packages, where you can choose to pay for as little as 24 hours of child care per month, up to 120.

“I just don’t think it’s fair that women have to make the choice between having a career that they like and being able to be with their kids,” says Cooper.

On the day of my visit, I meet Natasha, who is a consultant for a due diligence and compliance company headquartered in Singapore. She comes to Gather four days a week with her 18-month-old child.

“My daughter loves it here,” she says. “She’s been here since she was 6 months old, so ‘here’ is basically a second home.”

Thanks to an app connected to cameras in the child care area, Natasha can check in on her throughout the day when she’s too busy to walk downstairs for a visit.

“This is just me making sure that’s she’s actually sleeping,” she says laughing.

Another one of Gather’s members, a psychologist who utilizes one of the private offices on the third floor, uses the child care primarily for her clients’ kids. According to Cooper, she has paid for her patients’ to put their children in Gather’s day care space during appointments because she doesn’t believe that women should put their needs last when they have kids.

“She’s passionate about our mission,” says Cooper.

Where innovators meet

Across the river in another historic neighborhood home is Impact Cowork, set to open on March 4.

When Mike Sipple, Jr. and his wife, Amber started looking for a space to expand their business, an executive search firm called Centennial, they wanted a building that was large enough to house their company plus create a co-working space for executives, individuals who work from home, and business travelers. They also wanted enough room to rent out for meetings and events.

“We’re bringing in a community of leaders,” says Sipple. “We’re looking at individuals who work from home who need a ‘third place’ but also executives who just need to get out of their normal routine to get things done.”

He stresses that you don’t have to be someone who works from home to appreciate the community of a co-working space. “This can be a change of scenery,” he continues. “Any co-working space can. So don’t just think of it as, ‘Well, I don’t really fit that category. Because you could be super productive changing your scenery.”

The studio can be rented out for podcasts.The Sipples wanted a place close to downtown with character, which led them to their space on Park Avenue in Newport.

“We wanted to feel like we were really in it, so that’s what drove our search for space… we want to feel a part of the urban [core],” he says. “Being in a neighborhood made it feel like this is really home.”

The house — which was built by George Wiedemann, Jr. and is on the National Historic Register — is cozy, light-filled, and the perfect combination of comfort and professionalism. It includes original details — pocket doors, stained glass, and charming fireplaces — paired with large TVs, excellent WiFi, data ports in every desk, and ergonomic work stations.

He stresses the importance of keeping the old warmth while bringing in technological updates. Just off the modernized conference room is a small, circular bar area for socializing, and a space upstairs has been turned into a podcast studio that can be rented.

There also are work stations designed for international travelers to feel like they have a home base: desks that can be locked, closets, and even a beer fridge.

Above all, Sipple wants to be able to deliver for his team from Centennial while providing a great space for people in other corporations to use and rent as needed.

“Our goal is to build a community,” he says. “Like everyone, we’re trying to build a community. We have a fairly substantial community in the companies we run, and this is a place for that community to spend more time together.”

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Read more articles by Jessica Esemplare.

Jessica Esemplare is the managing editor of Soapbox Cincinnati and a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Shortly after completing her degree in magazine journalism, she began covering local and regional topics at The Cincinnati Herald and, later, as an editor at Ohio Magazine. Her writing has also been featured in U.S. News and World Report.