We know that military partners often feel that their career takes a back seat or that they aren’t doing what they studied or trained to do because of their partners’ role in the military. The mobile lifestyle of being part of a military family can create long-term insecurity for partners of serving military personnel and prevent them from develop their own independent career. The Military Coworking Network (MCN) was established in 2017 in response to this sense of career instability by a group of military partners who wanted to find a way to work and study together.
Sarah Stone and several volunteers set up the first Military Coworking Hub, in an unused room on Leuchars Station and from their magnolia HQ built a community that inspired military partners across the UK. In 2020 the MCN was awarded an Armed Forces Covenant Trust Fund grant and supported by the Royal Air Forces Association as well as the Naval, Army and RAF Families Federations has been transforming the project from a grass roots initiative to an international network.
The pilot project is due to come to a close in September 2023 and to ensure that we’re continuing to meet the needs of military spouses we commissioned an independent evaluation to understand the benefits of the project – and where we needed to improve. Today we are publishing the first stage of the Evaluation of the Military Coworking Hubs Pilot Project.
The evaluation acknowledged that being part of the military community can create a range of difficulties for spouses and partners, because of the following factors:
They often live in isolated military bases
Moving around frequently leads to difficulties in career progression and CV gaps
If they are a parent, the burden of supporting children may fall disproportionately on them
Domestic responsibilities and domestic organisation fall disproportionately on the partner who is not serving
They may live a long way from their support network
Some partners feel lonely, which brings with it a range of mental health challenges and impacts on their confidence
There may be a lack of jobs in their chosen industry in the place where they are posted
The survey highlighted that military partners often feel that their careers are seen as being less important than their partners’ and have to overcome the barriers outlined above that make it difficult to start, develop, or sustain their career. 51% of respondents to the Evaluation of the Military Coworking Hubs Pilot Project: First Phase believe that being part of a military family has had a negative effect on their career and income.
At the MCN we are confident that we can support military partners and spouses to build and maintain a successful career, create a business, or study by giving people an accessible, well-equipped place to work. The external survey found that;
“Working from the Coworking Hub in a stimulating environment with all facilities available, has increased productivity for the vast majority of hub users (87%).” - Evaluation of the Military Coworking Hubs Pilot Project: First Phase
But improving Hub users’ professional lives is just part of the story, alongside our commitment to helping members maintain a career we’ve also created an engaged community. Being a military partner can be lonely, but almost three quarters of hub users report feeling less lonely thanks to working and socialising in the hub.
“Through the Hubs, military partners met new people (80%) and made new friends (76%). Half of hub users reported more contact on social media (50%).” - Evaluation of the Military Coworking Hubs Pilot Project: First Phase
We’re delighted that the independent survey into the impact of working from our Hubs shows that users who go into their local Coworking Hub regularly have seen a positive effect on their mental health, with almost three quarters of hub users confirming that the hub has helped their mental wellbeing.
All Hub users interviewed agreed that the Hubs had a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Day to day, going to the Hub was found to be a good way to break out of a cycle of negative thoughts, thanks to having a change of scene and being around other people. - Evaluation of the Military Coworking Hubs Pilot Project: First Phase
So many Hub members have told us that they love working in the coworking spaces, and many more online members have expressed a wish that we were opening a Coworking Hub in their base or location, and it’s fantastic to have that positivity independently verified by the Social Value Lab survey.
Some of the Hub users interviewed for the report noted that having a network of Hubs helped to ease the emotional and psychological difficulty of moving around the country, as it creates a sense of stability and continuity.
We are thrilled with the results of the first stage of the external evaluation and will be working hard to ensure that the learnings from the first evaluation are incorporated into the final stages of the pilot project. If you would like to read the full Evaluation of the Military Coworking Hubs Pilot Project: First Phase survey, you can find it on our website here.
For those in a Coworking Hub location (Akrotiri, Blandford, Bovington, Bulford, Clyde, Chivenor, Leuchars, Sandhurst, Valley) please get in touch via our Hub Page to book a free trial to see what our coworking spaces can offer you.
You can also click here to sign the Hub Register to get your location to the top of the list for a new Hub when the MCN moves into its next iteration.