Thursday 10th October 2019
Over recent years there has been an increasing awareness of the obstacles that may be faced by military spouses and partners who want to pursue their own career.
In 2017 a report by the University of Warwick found that 63% of spouses/partners surveyed had changed career path because of the military lifestyle. Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) also demonstrate the potential impact on spousal employment, with the 2018 Tri-Service Families Continuous Attitude Survey (FamCAS) identifying that those military spouses who had moved for Service reasons in the last 12 months were more likely to feel that service life had a negative impact on their career and less likely to be in paid employment.
Now however an exciting new initiative aims to offset some of these difficulties through shared workspaces on stations. The military coworking network is a network of shared workspaces located on military bases, for the use of spouses and partners of the personnel based there.
The first co-working hub was set up at Leuchars Station in 2017 by a group of spouses who wanted a dedicated space where they could go to work; the hub offers a fully equipped, shared office space in a military building on the station which can be used by non-Serving members of the military community. However it is more than just a building, with members benefitting from a supportive and encouraging environment in which to work, develop employability skills, and tap into the expertise of others around them.
Following on from the success at Leuchars, military partners at a number of other units both in the UK and overseas have registered an interest in setting up their own shared workspaces. This May RAF Leeming became the first RAF station to announce plans to open a co-working hub, with a facility now planned at RAF Brize Norton as well. With early stage plans in RAF Wyton and RAF Lossiemouth, the longer term aspiration is to create a network of hubs, working together and becoming a familiar part of service life for family members arriving at a new unit.
“It makes such a difference having somewhere you can go to work for yourself, that’s away from your quarter and it’s so nice to have somewhere to make friends in a professional capacity, and focus on me as an individual and not as a wife or mother”
Sarah Stone, co-founder of the Leuchars Station Co-working Hub
What is a hub?
A co-working hub is a shared working space – in this case offering membership to spouses/partners of military personnel assigned to the station. They are run by users on a not-for-profit basis, with annual fees kept low in order to cover any running costs. The aim is to provide the kind of facilities that you might expect in an office, however co-working hubs might also provide local professional networking opportunities where appropriate, information about employers in the local area, details of higher education opportunities, and somewhere to discuss your work with others; or just the chance to meet new people and make friends.
Who might use it?
There are a range of circumstances that could lead to RAF partners spending the majority of their day working from home. For example, self-employed business owners, employees who work remotely for their company (for some or all of their working week), people who are studying for academic or professional qualifications through distance-learning, or job seekers completing applications and researching the local job market.
As with any start-up, growth needs to be carefully managed! The three Families Federations are working alongside Military Co-working Hub co-founder, Sarah Stone, and MOD and RAF partners in order to explore the feasibility of expanding the network of military co-working hubs across additional military units. If you are interested in getting involved and would like to set up a hub, or offer your professional skills and resources to support the project, please contact [email protected]
Examples from our RAF family members
Availability of business start-up programmes to military spouses and partners – such as The Unsung Hero and X-Forces courses – has led to a flourishing sector of small businesses within the military community. Some great examples are listed in the ‘Businesses run by our spouses’ section of our website. Running your own business can be an excellent option for RAF spouses/partners as in many cases it can move with you for your next posting.
“Being around others with their own businesses can be incredibly inspiring and, because they are on the same journey as you, there is a wealth and diversity of experience that can be tapped into right there in the room. It could be that the accountant, graphic designer or PA that you’re in need of is right there in the hub with you!”
Liz Hart, founder of Money Bee, RAF Brize Norton Co-working Hub
Homeworking for some or all of the week can also be a good option for RAF family members, especially if it allows you to keep the same job when moving to a new area – whether freelance or under contract. With Flexible Working now available to Service personnel homeworking could also become an increasingly attractive choice for Serving couples who are not co-located.
“Working from home can be isolating and lonely, and by creating a co-working office space within the station, this will encourage people to come together to work independently but gain the daily face to face connections that are so vital for healthy living”
Claire Willsher, founder of DR ME, RAF Leeming Co-working Hub
To find out more you can follow Military Co-working Hubs on:
We will also post further news on the RAF FF’s weekly eBulletin as it’s available: raf-ff.org.uk/publications/register-for-ebulletin
See also: Employment and training
This news story is included in the Autumn edition of Envoy magazine – the free magazine for RAF personnel and your families too. You can sign up online to have your own copy sent to your home (quarterly).