When Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville announced military spouse employment as one of his top priorities in 2019, the Defense Department's Military Spouse Employment Initiative took it for action, pushing forward the idea of creating on-base spouse co-working spaces. McConville's spouse, Maria McConville, has maintained her own career and teleworked off and on throughout their Army life, so he knows from personal experience how important this topic is.
The Pentagon's spouse survey on this subject is open through Dec. 14 after a preliminary survey focused only on spouses at Fort Belvoir, Virginia garnered only 119 responses.
The majority of spouses who took that survey said they'd be interested in using a space for two to three hours at a time about once a week. Of those surveyed, 95% lived off base, and 60% would be willing to drive up to 20 miles to access a co-working space.
Of course, there are currently plenty of off-base co-working options, though many of them might be at least temporarily shuttered right now. If sitting in a coffee house doesn't work for you, companies such as We Work, Regus, Workbar and even veteran spouse-owned GotSpot, a short-term space marketplace, offer options. But if you live in a remote area or base is too far from town (we see you Fort Irwin, California) you're likely out of luck, and nothing is as attractive as the free or heavily subsidized space costs offered on base, right around the corner from an hourly childcare center.
But Pentagon officials say they need more feedback to make it happen.
According to Lt. Col. Keith Wilson, who serves as a regional director for the Army Soldier for Life program, the goal is to create a coworking space on installations that are available at no or minimal cost to military spouses. The desire is to provide a co-working space that has printing capabilities and WiFi, that is ideally open 24/7 and that provides adequate seating and workspace.
The plan right now is to make Fort Campbell, McConville's home when he led the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, and Fort Belvoir, Virginia the first to receive the spaces. Those are both locations just far enough from major cities -- Nashville and inside the Washington D.C. beltway -- to be problematic, but close enough to host many spouses trying to telework or split their time between the office and home.
And several other installations and commands are also interested in co-working locations, like the U.S. Army Recruiting Command's (USAREC) New England Battalion. Their involvement would really help spouses who are geographically separated from installations benefit from the findings and programs of this initiative, officials said.
But will military spouses actually use this space? Do they want it?
And that's why they need you to take the survey. Unlike the first iteration, which focused only on Army spouses, it's now open to all military spouses, and the collection period for survey results has been extended from late November to Dec. 14.
"The key to bringing this initiative to a local installation starts with spouses completing the survey," Wilson said in an email.
To take the survey, start here.
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