Written by Laura Moore
Here at the Military Coworking Network we have been banging on about overcoming social isolation to anyone that will listen for the last year or so, and now everyone is realising what a huge issue it is!
Social isolation is one of the main issues that drives our project.
As military spouses we are often faced with moving to a new area where we don’t know anyone, or have any family support close to us.
In some areas the community support provided by friendly neighbours, toddler groups, school runs, book groups (aka gin groups!), choirs, or fitness classes can be fantastic, but you have to be a) brave enough to break in, b) at a stage in life where these things happen (teenagers are not so keen on mums organising play dates!), and c) in an area where people are making the effort to keep the community spirit live and kicking.
With more and more spouses building themselves careers or businesses that can be adapted to wherever the next posting is, remote working is on the rise, as it is in the rest of the country. Whilst this is great for our finances and our careers, the impact that working at home on your own can have on your mental health can be considerable, and this is where our network comes in.
The Military Coworking Network is a community run by and for military spouses. Our online community is a place where military spouses can network and share contacts and ask each other for help and ideas about different ways of maintaining careers that are compatible with military life. It also allows civilian organisations who want to hire us and access our skills and talents a way of reaching us.
Our Coworking Hubs are non-commercial coworking spaces in military bases where we can collaborate, work and study together. To date there are 7 hubs up and running (although sadly closed at the moment, obviously) and another 15 or so hubs in the pipeline across Europe.
The movement restrictions we are all under at the moment has just served to highlight how important our online communities around us really are. We may be isolated from each other physically, but online there is a community chatting, empathising and encouraging each other in these testing times. Sometimes it helps just to have a rant and then know that everyone is feeling the same way as you.
Our online community breaks down barriers that are sometimes raised high, particularly in military life. Online there is no judgement based on who your husband is and what he does, because no one has a clue. There is no judgement about your level of education or your lifestyle choices. You are welcomed for the input that you give to the community. Just like in “the real world”, you get out of an online community as much as you put in.
In the hubs that are already open we have had great comments about members feeling at home instantly in their coworking space, as they had already chatted and got to know people in their online community, either in the MCM group, or in their local hub group.
The MCN group also has the benefit of being Europe-wide (the first hub in Cyprus was due to open imminently when Covid-19 hit).
Imagine a world where instead of working surrounded by boxes on the first few days after moving, you can turn up at your new hub and meet people you have already connected with online. Oh, and you’ve already picked up a new client or job in the area because one of the members was advertising it on the network.
This is our dream!