There doesn’t need to be a child screaming in the background of a Zoom call for most people to realize that working parents have it rough. Balancing the full-time job of parenting with a full-time office job can be overwhelming. A new coworking company wants to make that balancing act a little easier.
BümoWork is a combination coworking space and child care center, located in the Westfield Century City Mall, on the west side of Los Angeles. Offering a high-end aesthetic and catering to the parents of children ages 6 months to 7 years, the company is trying to do two very different things at once.
Founded by Chriselle Lim, an Instagram influencer and beauty blogger, and Joan Nguyen, an education entrepreneur, BümoWork is aiming to fill a new niche in the pandemic-influenced work-from-anywhere era. Lim and Nguyen say that when they were doing research on coworking and child care, they found some coworking spaces that had places for kids to play and some kid-focused places that had areas where parents could work, but none that focused on both equally.
“The whole idea is a space that is elevated, that is adult, that is sophisticated to work in that’s conjoined with a space that is child-focused, that’s creative, that’s clean, and that’s inspirational for children, too,” Nguyen says.
Access to BümoWork is based on a subscription model, paid monthly. Compared to other coworking spaces in the area, like a hot desk at WeWork for $390 a month, the cost is higher, starting at around $990 per month for full time use. Childcare has an additional cost, depending on the age of the child, and starts at $940 per month. Shorter options are available, from half-days in the coworking side to 3-hour children’s camps on the childcare side.
The 4,000 square foot BümoWork facility has room for 40 adults and 26 children, and is split into three discrete spaces: coworking, child care, and a central reception area with private rooms where parents and kids can come together during the day or where mothers can breastfeed.
“The two sides are joined but separated,” says Nguyen, noting that neither side can hear the noise of the other. “Kids need to play and not be distracted by their parents, and parents need to work and not be distracted by their kids.”
The coworking side is geared toward millennial parents seeking a temporary or full-time break from their overlapping work and parenting lives. Lim, who traveled a lot for work pre-pandemic, says the aesthetic was inspired by the experience of walking into an airport lounge. “I wanted that feeling of okay, I have my own space, it feels luxurious, it feels like a treat being here, I can plug in and get to work,” she says.
To bring this idea into built form, BümoWork hired New York-based Heitler Houstoun Architects, which specializes in high-end interiors. The design uses modern furnishings, pale wood, and a pastel color palette.
The coworking side utilizes a mix of spaces, starting with more open and collaborative areas near the front and transitioning to quieter areas with high-backed chairs and private phone booths at the back.
The child care side is distinctly different. “All of our design energy was spent at the level of the kids. It’s something we’ve thought about a lot over the years and that typically gets overlooked,” says architect Josh Heitler. “We just wanted to reward a curious kid at that level. So we purposely did all of our design renderings on that side from a toddler’s eye level.”
The children’s side of things has actually ended up being most of the company’s focus for the past year. BümoWork was originally set to open in spring of 2020, but those plans were interrupted by the pandemic. Building off of Nguyen’s experience in education, the company developed an early education curriculum that’s been accessible online and is being used at the child care center, which has been partially open for the past month. Opening full time today, BümoWork has the painting and jungle gym elements of a typical day care coupled with things like early speech development and coding lessons for kids as young as 3.
Lim and Nguyen are hoping that this Los Angeles location is just the company’s first, and they are in talks with corporations and hotels about potentially integrating versions of BümoWork in those spaces. But combining coworking and child care into one facility is more difficult than it might seem, especially from a logistical perspective. “This project was one of the most complicated projects we’ve ever done. From compliance, zoning, regulation, licensing, there were so many layers to make sure that it met all of the requirements,” Heitler says. “Building departments are pretty reactive, and they’re not always good at new things.”
BümoWork’s founders contend that the pandemic has strengthened the argument for this new type of space, and that the future of work will likely be more accommodating to the needs of working parents.
“Before we were so used to this archaic idea of you had to work 9 to 5 and be this absentee parent if you didn’t have a super flexible job,” Nguyen says. “Now we’ve been exposed to this idea that, hey, I can actually go pick up my kids from school, do a little activity with them, play with them, and then plug back into work.”