Neither here nor there: that’s where some workers, many of them parents, find themselves. Not able to count themselves as traditional workers with a full-time office or as unemployed, these are folks who sometimes—but not all the time—could use a workplace of their own.
Telecommuters, part-time workers, self-employed professionals, and parents who just need an office can sometimes benefit from co-working, or having access to a shared workspace, which allows individuals to have an office at a fraction of the price. As flexible schedules, teleworking, and freelancing become more common ways to work, new shared offices are popping up all over the world. One local NOVA entrepreneur has taken this concept one step beyond by adding child care. In January, Play, Work, or Dash opened its doors in Tysons Corner, Virginia. The brainchild of Nicole Dash, this collaborative work space aims to fill a void she herself noticed during her own career. The former owner of a home-based daycare, Dash began to focus more on freelance writing and consulting, and she often networked with other women who longed for an office but didn’t need one full time. Many also had young children to care for.
Connecting the dots, Dash set out to open a unique co-working space.
Play, Work, or Dash (PWD) helps parents by enabling them to focus on their work while knowing that their children are being cared for by a professional staff nearby. Play, Work, or Dash also has a conference room so clients can host meetings and offers a short drop-off option for kids when a parent must attend a quick off-site meeting. Beyond filling a day-to-day need, PWD can help workers in this group long term. As a businesswoman and mother of four, Dash understands the challenges that working parents, especially “solo-preneurs,” face. “Too often when speaking with parents of young children,” she says, “I would hear how hard it is to balance being home with their kids while trying to work or grow their businesses. Many times they work a ‘second shift’ after the kids go to bed just to keep up.”
“We’re growing quickly and in an organic way, which makes me realize that this service does solve a problem for families with young children.”
—Nicole Dash, Founder, Play, Work, or Dash
The community’s response to Play, Work, or Dash has been overwhelming and amazing, Dash says. “We’re growing quickly and in an organic way, which makes me realize that this service does solve a problem for families with young children,” she says. Clients have included not just entrepreneurs who need an occasional office but also working parents of preschool or school-aged kids who need support when schools are closed. This idea was quickly proven with the Blizzard of 2016, which arrived when Play, Work, or Dash was less than a month old. “The blizzard was a great test for our business,” Dash explains. “Many parents turned to us to fill the gap left by school closings. We were able to provide an indoor escape for both parents and children while introducing our services to new families.”
At Play, Work, or Dash, parents can work at individual desks upstairs, at a long table, or even the conference room when available. The shared site also provides free wi-fi, free coffee, and basic office amenities.
Downstairs, kids have a bright, fun room with toys, books, craft items, clothes for dress-up, and more. If parents want to take a peek to see how the kids are doing, they can view a screen with live footage of the childcare room.
And what do kids think? “My kids love it! I tell them we’re going to Play, Work, or Dash and they’re so excited,” says Amanda Nicklas of Ashburn, Virginia, a registered nurse who works a night shift at a local hospital and is pursuing a master’s degree as a nurse educator. As a mom of two boys (ages 4 and 1) and a girl (age 2), Nicklas struggled with home life and homework balance. PWD has offered “a great balance between finding an engaging activity for the kids and allowing me to get some of my homework done.” Nicklas liked PWD so much she became a member (memberships provide discounts and benefits but are not required).
Another happy customer is Marcia Sheehan of Burke, Virginia, a member with two boys ages 5 and 7. As the founder of Charmed Cardinals, a women’s enrichment society that meets twice a month, Sheehan’s challenge was “the distraction of having kids at home and the guilt of household jobs that could be done instead of working on the business.” Like Nicklas, Sheehan had never used a co-working space before, but now visits Play, Work, or Dash at least weekly, and her kids also love it.
Erica Deputy, another member and mother of a 2 year old, calls PWD a “win-win” for both parent and child. “The environment is perfect—a quiet and expertly appointed place for me to work and a wonderfully creative place for [my daughter] to play,” she says. As the owner of Conflicted Pixie, LLC, her work includes running an e-shop featuring small batch handmade goods. “My priority is my family, so often, my business doesn’t get the attention I feel it needs,” she says, but since joining PWD, she’s getting much more done. Dash has already heard from many clients asking about future locations. “I’d love to one day open several more locations in the Washington, DC area,” she says. “I’m also interested in one day franchising the business concept, but I’m taking everything day by day.”
Learn more about PWD at playworkdash.com.