Fort Belvoir will become the first U.S. military installation in the world to provide professional workspace dedicated to military spouses. It’s part of an Army-wide initiative to provide military spouses a comfortable and professional workspace outside their homes, along with a training venue for employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Improving military spouse career and employment opportunities through new programs and partnerships is a top priority for Army senior leaders, said Lt. Col. Keith Wilson, a Soldier for Life Program regional director.
Close to 40% of Service members have considered leaving the military to support their spouse’s career, according to a 2019 survey. The number increases to 48% if a spouse holds a graduate or professional degree.
The study also saw a growth in military spouses who sought opportunities to increase their household income. Spouses noted that they were interested in more training and mentorship, and remote and flexible work opportunities, along with additional transparency on resources to help start a small business.
The Army is considering ways to make coworking space locations available at little or no cost to families, Wilson said. Compared to services offered outside the military, spouses could spend thousands each year to reserve a location.
Coworking spaces will also offer training opportunities, and a location for professional networking and community engagement.
The Army Quality of Life Task Force set a goal to establish military spouse coworking spaces on eight installations in fiscal year 2021, Wilson said. Efforts are already underway at Fort Belvoir and Fort Campbell, Ky., to make them the first installations to house a coworking space, Wilson added.
Fort Belvoir coworking space
The USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore committed over $200,000 to renovate a section of the USO Warrior and Family Center in support of the Army’s initiative, said Lisa Marie Riggins, Metro’s executive director.
The Fort Belvoir coworking space is slated to open in February, barring any setbacks caused by COVID-19 restrictions, Riggins said. The location will feature a vaulted ceiling workspace, with an attached conference room and rooftop terrace, all designed with state-of-the-art ergonomic furnishings.
USO Metro is also making renovations to its sports lounge on the first floor, converting it into a community café workspace, while the USO will reserve the upstairs coworking space for military spouses only.
Organizations such as USO, the Rosie Network, Instant Teams, and Rowan Tree, in conjunction with the Department of the Army’s chief of partnerships office, are assisting with current efforts, Wilson said.
Lessons learned from both Forts Belvoir and Campbell will fuel the larger coworking space initiative, as the Army looks to increase partnership opportunities to support future locations, Wilson added.